With all the hoopla in recent years associated with drunk driving public awareness campaigns and the stiffer penalties now attaching to convictions, it might seem reasonable to expect a directly related and notably measurable decrease in DWI-related car accidents and the number of drunk drivers on New Jersey roads overall.
Not so, say New Jersey State Police spokespersons and government officials. Gary Poedebucky, acting director of the state’s Division of Highway Traffic Safety, says that the DWI problem is persistent and that, “The percentage of alcohol-related fatalities in 2009 actually went up slightly.”
In fact, the 27, 838 drivers arrested last year for drunk driving represents just a three percent drop from those arrested the year before, notwithstanding the stringent efforts being made to identify and convict DWI offenders.
Notable is the program going on right now, namely, the annual “Over the Limit, Under Arrest” drunk driving initiative conducted statewide from early December through January 2. Under the program, police departments across the state receive approximately $5,000 each in federal grant money for extra DWI patrols in their areas.
The program has certainly made some difference, given that for most departments it provides for an extra 30 six-hour shifts that can focus exclusively on targeting and arresting drunk drivers.
North Jersey police officers are especially busy. Last year, nearly one-sixth of all DWI arrests in the state were made in North Jersey, with 300 of those occurring just within the DWI initiative period over the holiday season.
And this year is no different. “It’s out there, and it’s rampant,” says Michael Prelich, an Elmwood Park police officer in referring to the sheer number of DWI offenders. He has already arrested 49 people for drunk driving this year.
Related Resource: www.courierpostonline.com “Drunken driving remains a problem in state” December 27, 2010