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Nassau, Suffolk Counties Step Up DWI Patrols For New Year's Eve

YAPHANK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Long Island police officials are cracking down on drivers under the influence this New Year's Eve.

Suffolk County police Deputy Commissioner Tim Sini and Chief of Department Stuart Cameron said the force will be actively increasing patrols, targeting DWI and DWAI activity on New Year's Eve and into the following day.

"We don't want to make arrests. We'd rather people just not drink and drive and everyone stay safe," Sini told WCBS 880.

Cameron said he encourages people to go out and celebrate the new year, but to plan ahead and stay safe during the holiday.

"What they should do, before they go out and celebrate, is if they plan to drink, to find a safe means to get home -- whether it's designating a driver or planning to take a taxi or lining up some kind of car service," Cameron told 1010 WINS.

Nassau County also announced it would be adding more police officers to patrol on New Year's Eve, to help crack down on drunken-driving offenses.

"There will be additional police patrols all around Nassau County, and chances are if you drive drunk at any point over New Year's Eve, you will be arrested," Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said in a statement.

According to a statement released by the county, the Nassau County District Attorney's Office dedicated $100,000 to holiday DWI enforcement between Thanksgiving Eve and New Year's Day.

"It is appropriate to use DWI fine money and the funds seized from criminal activity to keep our families safe from the devastation that DWIs can bring," Acting District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a statement. "Hold your families close and be safe for the remainder of this holiday season, and be part of the solution by thinking ahead and choosing not to drive while impaired."

Officials said there were 26 DWI arrests in Nassau County over New Year's last year.

Meanwhile, Rep. Kathleen Rice is proposing legislation to mandate technology that could prevent drunken driving, CBS2's Tony Aiello reported.

The new technology in vehicles uses infrared light to quickly detect drunken drivers in less than a second, TV 10/55 Long Island Bureau Chief Richard Rose reported.

"Sensors will measure your normal breathing and the touch of your fingertips, and if your blood alcohol content is above the legal limit, the car won't start," Rice explained.

The Long Island Democrat's bill would provide $176 million to perfect the technology and require it in all vehicles within 10 years.

Rice said the prototype system uses the blood alcohol standard of 0.08 for most drivers, but it can be programmed for zero tolerance for drivers under the age of 21.

"It's going to keep drunk drivers off the road, and it's going to save lives," Rice said.

The American Beverage Institute is already lobbying against the mandate, arguing moderate and social drinkers would be penalized while prices of new vehicles would be raised.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving is promising to lead the fight to require the technology when Congress recovenes.

"The naysayers (say) it's going to cost too much money," said Marge Lee of DEDICATEDD -- Drive Educated Drive Informed Commit and Totally End Drunk Driving. "Yeah? How much would you pay to stop somebody you love from being killed?"

Susan Ciano, of Farmingdale, also supports Rice's proposal. Her husband, Glen, a Suffolk County cop, was killed by a drunken driver in 2009.

"I just know in my heart how much I hurt and how much it hurt me for me to tell my children that their father wasn't coming home," she said.

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