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Erie County seeing 10% increase in DWIs

The number of people driving under the influence is rising rapidly in Erie County, judging by the arrest statistics so far this year.

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said arrest reports show drivers are drunker than usual, are more male - up from 70% last year to 80% this year - and drugged driving arrests are up from 7% last year to 12%. While arrests were down significantly in the first few months of lockdown, there have been so many since, arrests are up to matching last year.

Flynn said the causes of the drugged driving might be clear.

"March, April, May and they couldn't go to bars. They couldn't go to restaurants. They were able to smoke weed at home and if they want to go to the store afterward, then they're driving, perhaps. Maybe the COVID had a little to do with it, but the marijuana is a long-term issue that I think we are going to see for the coming years," Flynn said.

Flynn said he has no idea why those drunken drivers are even more drunk than usual.

County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein is warning passengers to be more aware of what condition their driver is in, because of an increasing number of accidents involving impaired drivers.

"I don't know what I can say to change people's minds that decide to do this. However, I just want to reach out to passengers," Burstein said. "So when you get in the car and somebody else is driving, please know what they have on board. Please be aware if they have used anything, if they've smoked anything or snorted anything."

Chautauqua County Sheriff James Quattrone said his county isn't seeing major increases this year, although there were complaints about flotillas misbehaving and possibly under-the-influence boaters at beaches, particularly the usual party area at Sunset Bay.

"Too many cases of the younger population were the COVID cases, and then part of it is reckless behaviors, parties," Quattrone said. "We've had one incident. A flotilla, several boats together earlier this summer. We've had a few different complaints about flotillas but, thankfully, not many cases resulting from them."

Chautauqua has a slowly rising COVID-19 count that keeps adding up.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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