With students returning to campus for the fall semester, Plattsburgh City Police and University Police have teamed up to utilize new measures for reducing drunk driving risks.
Vince’s Law, a law put in place to keep repeat DWI felons out of their cars and off of the streets, was sponsored by New York State Senator John DeFrancisco and passed in June, making drunk driving a Class C felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison for more than three DWI convictions in a 25-year period.
The namesake of this law is Vincent Russo, an elderly man who was struck by a vehicle and killed on his way to Sunday mass in 2011.
The driver operating the vehicle, Michael Iannettoni, was awaiting sentencing on his fifth DWI violation.
Iannettoni’s blood alcohol level was four times the legal limit when he struck Russo.
At the time of Russo’s death, the law for multiple DWI offenses only took into consideration those committed within a 10-year period.
“Driving while intoxicated is a serious offense and the penalties for these violations should reflect that,” DeFrancisco said.
“This bill would address repeat drunk drivers by requiring them to face increased penalties, including mandatory jail time.”
In conjunction with New York State Police to harshly punish those violating drunk driving laws, Plattsburgh Police and University Police have begun setting up sobriety checkpoints in different areas of town.
University Police Assistant Chief Jerry Lottie said the main concern of law enforcement on campus is the pedestrians because if they are merely crossing the street, they are defenseless against drunk drivers.
Over the past few years, new safety improvements have been implemented on campus, particularly on Broad, Rugar and Cornelia Streets including flashing signs and raised crosswalks to signal to drivers that pedestrians are crossing the street.
In a survey of 40 random PSUC students, all agreed that the new safety efforts appear to be more effective in preventing accidents or pedestrian injuries.
Lottie also said 25 percent of DWI charges in the Plattsburgh area are from college students, and repeated offenses can now have more long-term and problematic consequences because of the new regulations.
Students are highly recommended to monitor their alcohol intake and reminded not to get behind the wheel of a car if they have been consuming alcohol.