What is the Initiative?
The initiative is not so much a single entity as a similar idea in local law enforcement agencies across the United States. The concept behind this program is obvious given the name – to stop DWI offenders and keep them off the road. You may have heard this slogan on TV or the radio, “Cops are cracking down”. That is the initiative in your area letting people know that law enforcement is not taking lightly anyone who makes the choice to drink and get behind the wheel. The initiatives have been successful in bringing down the numbers of drunk driving-related deaths. The 2007 Traffic Safety Facts from the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) shows a definite decrease in the number of deaths due to alcohol-related driving. It’s safe to say that each local law enforcement agency has numbers such as these for where you live. A simple online search for your hometown should bring up some statisticssuch as these for the Stop-DWI Initiative in Broome County, NY. Take a look and see what you find!
History of the Initiative
It’s difficult to say where the Stop-DWI Initiative first appeared. Specific state information can even be contradictory. This writer found a consistent message that the initiative may have first appeared in New York State. The question of when is a little hazy. The New York Traffic Safety Digest states that the initiative began in 1980. However, the official website for Orange County, New York says that it began in 1981. Whenever it “officially” began, the initiative was seen as a step in the right direction. From the East Coast, this concept has caught on and is now included in the programs of local law enforcement across the country.
Since its inception, the initiative has evolved and expanded. New phrases such as “Over the Limit, Under Arrest” have been heard on TV and in radio ads nationwide. My personal favorites are the posters resembling movie premieres. In February 1999, then-mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani and other state officials gave their support in a press releaseof Justice Michael Stallman’s ruling to uphold the city’s Automobile Forfeiture Program as constitutionally valid. In layman’s terms, this means that if you are caught drunk behind the wheel, among the other charges brought against you, you will lose your vehicle. It’s pretty hard to be a drunk driver without a vehicle! There is a program across Texas known as DWI/No Refusal. This program allows police to immediately issue warrants to suspected drunk drivers who refuse a breathalyzer test. This warrant allows the officer to have the offender’s blood drawn to confirm intoxication. Undoubtedly, as time progresses, the initiatives of each state and the nation will change to adapt to the needs of the communities they serve.
How to Get Involved
The initiatives themselves are programs run and governed by law enforcement personnel in each county across the US. As such, they are not so much a arena for the average citizen to get involved. That said, there are still ways you can help. Get involved with other local organizations such as MADD, SADD, etc. Organize youth awareness programs and contact your local law enforcement for assistance. The D.A.R.E. officer in my local area is personally involved in many awareness-raising events to help youth and adults alike understand the dangers of drunk driving and other issues related to substance abuse. My own kids went through D.A.R.E. programs in the fifth grade with this officer as their teacher and “graduated” the program with full diploma stating their understanding of the dangers of drugs and alcohol. If you’re not sure where you can be most effective, contact the law enforcement teams in your area and ask them where help is needed. If you see a void where activity could help, but there doesn’t seem to be an organization addressing it – blaze a trail and start your own group! All of the organizations helping in the fight against drunk driving began when someone decided they wanted to help. You can do the same.
The Initiative and DWI/DUI Offenders
In a perfect world, any potential DWI offender would feel the threat of the Initiatives and simply choose not to drink and drive. Unfortunately, we can see that this isn’t going to happen, so it takes work to perhaps someday end the problem of DWI/DUI. Those offenders that have a prior DWI and make the choice to drink and drive again will find that the results are much more severe this time around. This will be the status quo from now on. It will be continually harder for individuals to get away with being drunk behind the wheel and those that are will face increasingly severe penalties. One thing law enforcement is quite good at is adapting to changes in criminal activity. People drive drunk – officers crack down. Drunk drivers try to be sneaky – officers train and become more aware of how to spot them. One important note for any potential DWI/DUI offender – you will be caught. At the very least you run the risk of losing your driving privileges and your vehicle and maybe spending some time in jail. At the opposite end of the scale, you could take the life of an innocent person. None of these outcomes are worth it. Save yourself and everyone else the trouble and heartache. Don’t drive drunk.