Families Commemorate Those Lost to Drunk & Impaired Drivers At “NJ Remembers”

TRENTON – Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa today gathered with families who have had someone close to them killed in a drunk driving crash to commemorate those lost lives and talk about the work ahead to end drunk and impaired driving.

During an emotional New Jersey Remembers ceremony at the Trenton War Memorial, families participated in a processional, in which they were escorted by local police officers and State Troopers. Representing the nearly 10,000 lives lost each year nationwide to impaired driving, the families displayed photos of their loved ones and lit candles to commemorate their lives. They also were afforded the opportunity to say a few words of remembrance about their relatives to the 250 attendees.

“Today is a solemn day, but it is also a day to remember those loved ones who were taken from you by a drunk or impaired driver,” Chiesa said. “Those of us who have not experienced what you have can’t begin to imagine your pain, or comprehend the void left in your lives by this tragedy. But my hope for this gathering is that it offers something meaningful to take with you when you leave.”

“Hopefully, this gathering will provide you with positive energy – the encouragement of hearing from others like yourselves, and perhaps, the reinvigoration of your advocacy on this vital issue,” he said.

In New Jersey, alcohol-related crash fatalities account for about a quarter of all crash fatalities. In 2011, 152 people died in alcohol-related crashes, down from 2010, when 168 lost their lives.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that approximately 10,000 people die each year on our nation’s roadways due to drunk or impaired driving – about one person every 51 minutes.

Chiesa said impaired driving is still pervasive and despite the statistical improvements, fatalities remain “by any measure too many.”

Division of Highway Traffic Safety Acting Director Gary Poedubicky said his agency is working aggressively on the issue.

“Enforcement and education are tremendously important to combating this problem. On the enforcement side, we use our “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” drunk driving mobilizations, saturation patrols and checkpoints, as well as the efforts of Drug Recognition Evaluators. For education, we constantly remind the public that even one drink is too many to drive – that’s the only way to ensure everyone is safe and sober on the roadways.”

Chiesa closed by saying, “we call this event a remembrance – and for good reason. By coming here today and sharing with us the stories of your lost loved ones, you are ensuring that New Jersey will never forget them – or lose sight of our need to do something about the tragedy of drunk driving.”

Assemblyman Nelson Albano (1st District-Cumberland), whose 19-year-old son Michael was killed by a drunk driver in 2001, participated in the processional and spoke at the event.

Following the victims’ tribute, officers with the most Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) arrests from each of the 21 counties and all four State Police troops were honored for their efforts in 2012 by the Attorney General, State Police Lt. Col. Edward Cetnar and a representative from their respective county prosecutor’s offices. Last year, officers in New Jersey made more than 30,000 DWI arrests in the state. The statewide leader was Pennsauken Township Officer Joe Kuchmek, of Camden County, who made 86 arrests.

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