As Impaired Driving Rises in NYC, Enforcement Drops

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A report by the New York City Independent Budget Office found that injurious or fatal DWI crashes are rising.

A new report by the New York City Independent Budget Office found that even though impaired driving arrests have decreased in NYC in recent years, there’s been an increase in fatality- or injury-causing crashes by impaired drivers. According to the report, “DWI crashes with injuries or fatalities” increased from a total of 942 in 2015 to a total of 1,234 in 2019. In the same period, arrests for impaired driving declined 40% between 2013 and 2019, from 9,879 to 5,339.

In addition to the obvious dangers posed by impaired drivers, the report concludes, the decline in arrests “has led to a decline in revenue the city receives under the state’s Special Traffic Options Program for Driving While Impaired (STOP-DWI) program.” This program uses fines for impaired driving incidents “to help coordinate local efforts to reduce alcohol- and other drugrelated traffic crashes.” In other words, the decline in arrests may contribute to a cycle in which reduced enforcement results in reduced funding to prevent impaired driving, which may contribute to more impaired driving.

StreetBlog reports that in 2012, New York City collected $7 million via the STOP-DWI program. In 2020, this number fell by nearly 65% to a total of $2.5 million. StreetsBlog notes that the NYC IBO report comes shortly after the New York state legislature’s failure to pass legislation that would have reduced the blood alcohol limit for drunk driving from .08 to .05.

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The IBO report notes that while DWI incidents are rising in NYC, arrests are falling.

In a statement to StreetsBlog about the IBO report, transit safety advocacy group Transportation Alternatives said in part, “If Mayor de Blasio had more quickly and aggressively scaled street safety redesign projects, our streets citywide would prevent drivers from causing harm and would protect vulnerable street users from crashes in the first place.” A spokesperson for the NYPD said that it uses various safety mechanisms, such as “Vision Zero High Visibility Enforcement corridors” and “the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safe Passage initiatives,” to combat impaired driving.

More information on the rise in impaired driving (and the decrease in enforcement) in New York City is available via the IBO report and StreetsBlog’s analysis.

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