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


New York’s STOP-DWI program is the first and, to date, most comprehensive self-sustaining statewide impaired driving program in the Nation. Other States have implemented components of self-sufficiency, but none to the degree of New York.

When New York established its STOP-DWI program in 1981, the State’s alcohol-related fatality rate was considerably lower than the national average. Since the early 1980s, there has been a significant decline across the Nation in the number and rate of alcohol-related fatalities.

New York’s STOP-DWI program has helped the State keep pace with this nationwide decline, even though the State was among the last to adopt certain impaired-driving laws, such as the .08 BAC law. New York continues to maintain an alcohol-related fatality rate that is significantly lower than the national average.

Of greatest significance, the program is self-sustaining and does not require the use of tax revenue. Impaired-driving arrests generate its funding source. When revenues are distributed, they are directed to the localities where they were generated.

The greatest amounts of revenue ($9 million of a total $23 million in 2003) are distributed to high population areas (i.e., counties with populations above 500,000). Areas with low populations (i.e., counties with populations below 100,000) receive revenue at the highest per capita rate ($1.92, compared with a statewide average of $1.21).

Revenue generated by the program is directed toward enforcement, courts, probation, rehabilitation, and PI&E. Revenues have also supported some innovative practices, including confiscation of vehicles from motorists arrested for impaired driving, alternative jail for hard core repeat offenders, underage drinking hotline, enforcement and prevention activities associated with a beer keg registration law, use of geographic information systems in data collection and analysis, focus on border crossing and illegal drinking among underage youth, electronic ticket and crash reporting by New York State Police, and use of DWI courts based on the drug court model.

The continued longevity of the New York STOP-DWI program can be attributed to the following factors:

  • The STOP-DWI law derives program funds from its two-tiered alcohol offenses: driving while intoxicated (DWI) and driving while ability-impaired (DWAI) fines. The number of arrests and convictions form the cornerstone for program resources.

  • Revenues received are directed to the counties and remain exclusively in local coffers.

  • The mission of the program is to empower and coordinate local efforts to reduce alcohol and other drug-related traffic crashes within the context of a comprehensive and financially self-sustaining statewide alcohol and highway safety program.

  • New York uses a performance-based planning process to identify goals for its traffic safety and impaired-driving program. Each county pursues the overall goals of the STOP-DWI program, but each may set supplementary goals and performance targets.

  • The program is grounded on “local option,” which affords each county the ability to implement community-specific countermeasures and interventions. Each county has structured its program according to its individual needs and its capacity to generate revenues from DWI offenses. County STOP-DWI coordinators are responsible for the development of county plans and the coordination of efforts.

  • Two key laws that form the foundation for New York’s program are:

    1. Plea Bargain Limitations - New York is one of few States to have a two-tier system for alcohol violations. The two-tier system allows the State to have the “no-plea-bargaining-out-of-alcohol” law. Offenders may have their DWI (.08+) arrests dropped to DWAI (.05+) convictions for a first time offense, but may not plea to a nonalcohol offense (e.g., reckless driving). This is important to ensure the offender is still convicted under an alcohol offense, beginning the tracking system for repeat offenders.

    2. Judicial Per Se License Revocation - Section 1193[2](e)(7)a of the Vehicle and Traffic Law requires mandatory loss of license if a driver takes a breath test and registers a BAC level of .08 g/dL or higher, the driver license is suspended no later than the conclusion of arraignment. Most States have Administrative License Revocation (ALR) laws, which provide a 15-day temporary license until a hearing can be scheduled. New York’s Judicial Per Se License Revocation law is swifter. As a precursor to the Judicial Per Se legislation, New York had its own ALR law whereby only repeat alcohol offenders’ driving privileges were suspended pending prosecution.

      These are two laws that every State could adopt independent of a local option STOP-DWI Law.

  • A STOP-DWI Foundation has been formed to enable local STOP-DWI programs to apply for Federal funds.

  • The STOP-DWI program invests heavily in activities that will create general deterrence. The largest share of the revenue is directed toward enforcement. Every county uses at least some of its revenue for enforcement (e.g., equipment, supplies, patrols, or other activities) and the majority (60 %) of counties dedicate most of their resources to enforcement. (The share ranges from 24 percent to 86 percent, depending on the county.) More than one-third of the revenue statewide is used for enforcement. Other shares are directed toward court-related activities, PI&E, probation and rehabilitation (18%, 14%, 13%, and 6%, respectively).

  • Based on the population and resource characteristics of the four groups, the Low Population (Rural) group has the poorest outcomes in spite of higher budget per capita. This suggests that rural areas pose more considerable challenges in the prevention of impaired driving, and may require different countermeasures.

  • State Police support the program by participating in the enforcement of DWI and DWAI laws and the prosecution of DWI offenders especially in rural areas of the State (even though they are not permitted to receive STOP-DWI funds).

  • Key elements in the program administration of STOP-DWI include local program (county-based) budget approval on an annual fiscal year, quarterly funding cycle based on statutory definition, annual administrative plan based on local needs, coordinator with defined duties and responsibilities, advisory board requirement for each program and program organization.

For many communities and regions, STOP-DWI could serve as a model. Aspects of STOP-DWI can be applied using various methods, but in particular, by examining the population and resource characteristics of a community and/or region. The New York City (area) program has unique attributes that may be different from other urban metropolitan cities, however, it provides examples of administrative and impaired driving countermeasure activities it deems successful at assisting the State in further reducing alcohol-related fatalities on its roadways.

NHTSA gratefully acknowledges the New York Department of Motor Vehicles, the New York STOP-DWI Coordinators, the New York State Police, and the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research for their continued support in this program and for their significant contributions to traffic safety.