A Review of New York State's STOP-DWI Program

V. CHALLENGES

The New York STOP-DWI program has helped the State maintain its lower-than-average alcohol-related fatality rate. The program is self-sufficient and does not require the use of tax revenue, with impaired-driving arrests generating its funding source. However, changes in priorities and availability of resources have affected the program at all levels. The paradox of an impaired-driving prevention program that relies on offender fines is that effective countermeasures may reduce the availability of funds to support the program.

Other challenges that currently face STOP-DWI include:

  • Impact of DWI/Drug Courts on Program Revenues. The impact of DWI Courts on local program revenues is reported by the STOP-DWI coordinators to be a growing concern. Program funding is reliant upon offender fines, and the DWI courts either waive fines in lieu of alternatives (e.g., rehabilitation treatment) or retain the fines.

  • Delayed or No-Fine Payment. Although exact data was not available, it is estimated that 15 to 30 percent of offender fines are not collected. Offender fines are not required to be paid until all other penalties are satisfied, therefore, payment can take months to more than a year. In addition, in spite of local efforts to collect fines (e.g., hiring of staff for this specific purpose), local programs continue to struggle with the problem of uncollected fines.

  • Political Leadership. While the majority (72%) of the STOP-DWI programs are accountable to county administrators, there are 16 programs where officials are elected. In the latter, the program staff may be politically appointed and, therefore, may result in staff turnover or be more directly affected by local political actions and priorities. This may also have an impact on local program STOP-DWI advisory and traffic safety board membership and activities.

  • State Police. The New York State Police are important STOP-DWI program partners, but do not receive financial incentives (e.g., offender fines) for impaired-driving enforcement. While the State Police have provided their full cooperation to the program, reliance on them could present a challenge, especially in rural areas where many times they are the primary law enforcement agency. However, in appreciation of their efforts, there are in-kind goods and incentives provided, such as equipment, special recognition and training. The crucial issue for STOP-DWI is to maintain collaboration with the New York State Police without providing direct compensation for work performed.

  • Local Models. The local-based models vary in structure and programmatic activities. While this aspect of STOP-DWI is viewed as a major program strength, the challenge is for local programs to function efficiently and systematically in their countermeasure activity. Active local programs often combine programmatic efforts and collaborate with numerous public and private partners.