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


New York State is recognized nationally as a leader in traffic safety, in particular for continual progress in reducing alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes and fatalities. In 2002, the New York fatality rate was 0.36 versus 0.61 for the United States. In November 2003, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) assembled a team to review New York’s Special Traffic Options Program for Driving While Intoxicated, known as STOP-DWI.

The mission of New York’s STOP-DWI 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 State STOP-DWI Coordinators Association, 2002). The program’s goal is to achieve these reductions through the creation and funding of programs relating to enforcement, prosecution, probation, rehabilitation, public information, education, and administration.

In the summer of 1981, State Senator William T. Smith introduced the STOP-DWI legislation, which was considered during the 1981-1982 regular session of the New York State Legislature. This legislation was the result of years of advocacy by Senator Smith, following the death of his daughter by an impaired driver in 1973 (New York STOP-DWI Coordinators Association, 2002). The STOP-DWI Law was enacted in November 1981, and county programs were first implemented in 1982.

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

The purpose of this report is to provide a review of the New York STOP-DWI program, including:

  1. An examination of the mission, goals, and program components of STOP-DWI;

  2. An examination and description of the social and political context of STOP-DWI, and the historical and modern trends associated with its implementation; and

  3. A discussion of what critical STOP-DWI program elements the State has continuously funded in its efforts toward further reducing alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes and fatalities.

The team employed multiple methods to conduct the review. First, numerous NHTSA and STOP-DWI program documents were analyzed, including legislative and other public records, contract and budget documents, media releases and reports, program plans, technical and program reports, and scientific publications (refer to References and Documents Analyzed).

Second, site visits were performed in December 2003. The team conducted a site visit to the NHTSA Eastern Office in White Plains on December 2, 2003. At this meeting, representatives from the agency, the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, the New York Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research (ITSMR) at the University at Albany, and several STOP-DWI county programs were present. Another site visit was conducted December 17-19, 2003, in Albany at the offices of the New York DMV and ITSMR. Two team members participated in each site visit, which incorporated fact-finding efforts, individual meetings and roundtable discussions with over 20 representatives from STOP-DWI programs and community and local leaders in impaired-driving prevention, including the New York State Police. Topics discussed included impaired-driving goals and objectives, annual STOP-DWI program implementation, and local administration, among other areas surrounding New York’s experience with impaired driving and its STOP-DWI law.

Third, State and county level data about driving while intoxicated (DWI)/driving while ability-impaired (DWAI) convictions, motor vehicle crashes, vehicle registrations, driver licenses and program activities from the counties, the New York DMV, and the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, and sociodemographic data from the United States Census Bureau were collected and analyzed. Data to describe State and national trends were obtained from the New York DMV and NHTSA.

The project team was comprised of Mary D. Gunnels (team leader) and Dee Williams. Sami Richie of NHTSA’s Eastern Region was the Regional liaison for this New York State project.

This analysis of the STOP-DWI Program represents 58 programs, one described as New York City, serving 62 counties in the State of New York. For administrative (and geopolitical) reasons, the New York City counties are managed by one program comprised of five boroughs: Manhattan (New York County), the Bronx, Brooklyn (Kings County), and Queens and Staten Island (Richmond County). (Roughly 42 percent of the State’s 19 million population reside in the five boroughs of New York City.)

For meaningful analysis of the program, motor vehicle crash and criminal justice data for the New York Stop-DWI programs are organized into four groups by county population: > 500,000; 250,000-499,999; 100,000-249,999; and < 100,000. The resident population serves as the basis for the four-group model, and means and ranges, as well as weighted budget per capita, are used to characterize the four groups for useful comparison by other communities and regions. To calculate the budget per capita, the four county groups were weighted proportionally. For example, the high-population group (6 county programs) represents 10 percent of the 58 programs. Therefore, averaging county program budgets for this group equals an average $1.10 ($6.8/6). Finally, the $1.10 was multiplied by 10 percent (weight) to calculate the weighted budget per capita ($0.11). The rationale for organizing the review using population is that population has an impact on the incidence of crashes and ultimately the number of tickets, arrests, and convictions (from which the budget is derived). Detail is presented in the following Figure and Table.

Map of Four Groups, by Population.

Map of Four Groups, by Population - click for long description
Data source(s): United States Census Bureau & National Center for Statistics and Analysis, 2004.

Estimated Weighted Per Capita Resources, by Group.

County Group
Total Resources
Total Population
Average (Weighted)
Per Capita
1 High Population
2 Moderate High
3 Moderate Low
4 Low Population

*The methodology for computation of weighted budget per capita is described above and in Section III. Of interest is that as population per county decreased, average per capita resources increased.
Data source(s): New York Department of Motor Vehicles, 2003 STOP-DWI Program Plans and County Budgets, United States Census Bureau (2000 data). Insufficient data for 2 counties (Hamilton, Wyoming).

Highlights from this analysis include a summary of program activity and program impact data (motor vehicle crash outcomes and criminal justice data) presented in the following Table and Figures.

Most Frequently Reported Program Countermeasures, by All Programs.

Program Area
Mean % (Range)
Annual Program Budget
# (%) Programs
35% (11-86%)
Equipment & Supplies
58 (100%)
DWI Patrols
55 (95%)
Education/Training Programs
24 (41%)
18% (0-49%)
Dedicated DWI Attorney(s)/Staff
47 (81%)
Education/Training Programs
15 (26%)
Offender Supervision Programs
5 (9%)
DWI Victim Services*
5 (9%)
13% (0-44%)
Dedicated Officer(s)/Staff
45 (78%)
Education/Training Programs
8 (14%)
Intensive Supervision
8 (14%)
DWI Victim Services*
6% (0-27%)
Dedicated Counselor(s)/Staff
38 (66%)
DWI Victim Services
4 (7%)
14% (0-37%)
Underage Drinking Emphasis
54 (93%)
Special Prevention Focused Events
32 (55%)
DWI Victim Services**
10 (17%)
Advertising Billboards
4 (7%)

Note(s): N = 56 (insufficient data for Wyoming and Hamilton counties).
*The DWI Victim Services are distributed in different program areas. Cumulatively, these activities, primarily Victim Impact Panels, occur in 26 (45%) of STOP-DWI programs.
** Includes DWI Victim Services allocated within Administrative Budget.
Data source(s): New York Department of Vehicles, 2003; Local STOP-DWI Program Plans (and FY 2003 Budget Estimates)

The chart below shows a decline in alcohol-related fatalities sustained for a decade, among Groups 1 and 3. Group 2 has held steady over the years and Group 4 has fluctuated with slight decreases and increases over the 10-year period. Overall, both groups with moderate population sizes, Groups 2 and 3, have relatively fewer fatalities than the other two groups.

Alcohol-related Crash Fatalities, by Group, 1992-2002.

Alcohol-related Crash Fatalities, by Group, 1992-2002 - click for long description

Note(s): County Groups: 1=High Population (Above 500,000), 2=Moderate High Population (250,000-500,000), 3=Moderate Low Population (100,000-250,000), and 4=Low Population (Below 100,000).
Data Sources: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.

The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services and ITSMR (2004) report that 60,737 tickets for impaired driving (all alcohol-related charges) were issued in 2002 to about 45,000 individuals (some jurisdictions give out two tickets – e.g., one for Judicial Per Se [mandatory loss of license if a driver takes a breath test and registers a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or higher, his or her driver license is suspended no later than the conclusion of arraignment] and one for DWI), representing approximately 2.6 percent of all tickets issued (excluding New York City and the five western townships of Suffolk County on Long Island). The conviction data presented in the following Table (Impaired Driving Arrests versus Convictions) highlights convictions on alcohol-related driving charges (original, reduced, and other alcohol-related). While a driver may receive more than one alcohol-related driving charge during a vehicle stop, this constitutes one person arrested. For each group, despite variation in population and program resources, it appears that a substantial proportion of arrests (91 %) result in conviction. The remaining 9 percent account for those individuals convicted on a nonalcohol charge, a charge associated with a different event, dismissals and acquittals.

Impaired Driving Arrests versus Convictions, by Group, 2002.

Impaired Driving Arrests versus Convictions, by Group, 2002- click for long description

Note(s): Total arrests = 45,329, Total convictions = 41,328
County Groups: 1=High Population (Above 500,000), 2=Moderate High Population (250,000-500,000), 3=Moderate Low Population (100,000-250,000), and 4=Low Population (Below 100,000).
Data Sources: ITSMR, 2004; NYS Department of Motor Vehicles; NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services.

In summary, the New York STOP-DWI program has helped the State maintain its lower-than-average alcohol-related fatality rate. The program is self-sustaining 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.

Alcohol-Related Fatality Rates Per 100 Million Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT),
New York State versus United States 1982-2002.

Alcohol-Related Fatality Rates Per 100 Million VMT, New York State versus United States 1982-2002 - click for long description

Data source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (National Center for Statistics and Analysis), 2003.

Other challenges that currently face New York 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, this therefore may result in staff turnover or be more directly affected by local political actions and priorities. This may also impact 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.

In summary, 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 a .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 public information, and education. Revenues have also supported some innovative practices, including confiscation of vehicles from motorists arrested for impaired driving, alternative jail for hard-core repeat offenders, an 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/or 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, his or her 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, public information and education, 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 additional and/or 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.

* Note: The alcohol-related fatality data used for this report was retrieved from NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). A motor vehicle crash is considered to be alcohol-related if at least one driver or nonoccupant (such as a pedestrian or pedalcyclist) involved in the crash is determined to have had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.01 gram per deciliter (g/dl) or higher. Thus, any fatality that occurs in an alcohol-related crash is considered an alcohol-related fatality. However, the term “alcohol-related” does not indicate that a crash or fatality was caused by the presence of alcohol.

Beginning with the 2001 FARS data, NHTSA began using multiple imputation to estimate missing BAC values. The old estimation method used by NHTSA calculated the chance that a driver, pedestrian, or a pedalcyclist with unknown or missing alcohol results had a BAC in each of the three categories: .00, .01 to .09, or .10 and higher. Multiple imputation offers NHTSA significant advantages over the old method in analyzing and reporting estimates of alcohol involvement. Instead of estimating alcohol involvement by the three aforementioned categories, the new method estimates BAC along the entire range of plausible values (.00 to .94 g/dL). Estimating missing BAC this way enables NHTSA to report the extent of alcohol involvement at any BAC level.