Spotlight on Drunk Driving Crashes on Long Island

When you think about a particular geographical area being “first” in a category, it’s often something to be proud of. But in the case of Suffolk County, and to a lesser degree in Nassau County, the superlatives are actually pretty devastating, at least when it comes to drunk driving. Here are a couple of significant facts on the issue:

  • Every year since 2001 (that’s fifteen consecutive years), Suffolk has been number one among all the counties in New York when it comes to alcohol-related crashes. Second place is held by Nassau County.
  • Between 2001 and the end of last year, more people have died in alcohol-related auto accidents in Suffolk County than anywhere else in the State of New York.

Those statistics have helped to give Long Island a reputation as the DWI capital of the state. And recent news indicates that the situation may be continuing. For example, earlier this summer a pickup truck slammed into a limo in Suffolk County, killing four woman and injuring two others critically. The driver has been charged with driving while intoxicated.

Officials acknowledge the problem, but they also state that statistics can be misleading. They point to the abundance of rural roads on Long Island, traffic congestion, and other issues that they say contribute to a statistical bias.

Penalties for drunk driving in New York have become more severe over time, beginning in 1981 with the “Stop D.W.I. Law.” New York was also one of the first states to make driving drunk with a child passenger a felony, with the passage of Leandra’s Law in 2009. Nevertheless, the number of drunk driving crashes on Long Island is still significant. In 2013, for example, the Suffolk County had 853 alcohol-related crashes. That amounts to more than 10% of the total for the entire state. Fourteen percent of those crashes were fatal.

One interesting side note: While the prevalence of drunk driving appears to be continuing, the number of arrests for DWI apparently hasn’t kept up the pace. According to one official, the number of drunk driving arrests in Nassau County, for example, is half what it was twenty years ago.

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