POUGHKEEPSIE – The Dutchess County Chapter of Remove Intoxicated Drivers (RID) held its 36th annual remembrance in front of the county office building on Thursday.
This year, Dutchess County added three new names of victims to the plaque that hangs inside of the county building: Conchetta “Jet” Eastman, Emily Rose Wooten, and Anita Duncan.
Eastman was a mother of two young children, Wooten had recently completed high school after only three years, and Duncan was a mother of eight and grandmother to 16.
William Aiken, vice-president of RID USA, said that his organization, founded by his mother in 1978, was the first anti-drunk-driving organization in the nation. Ceremonies like the Poughkeepsie event are essential to get the message across, he said.
“I think what’s really important it gives a chance to invite elected leaders to see what the impact of this is on a personal level and not by statistics or numbers, which are very overwhelming, but this puts a face on it,” Aiken said.
Aiken mentioned that nationally, RID USA is trying to get the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle reduced from .08 percent to .05 percent and said that the organization has statistics to back up the argument.
Bill Johnson, Dutchess County’s STOP-DWI coordinator, said “today we gather to reflect upon and honor the memories of those lost to impaired driving crashes in Dutchess County – each of which was preventable.” Johnson also noted that the increase of opioid abuse is leading to more drivers operating under the influence of illegal narcotics and with the potential for marijuana legalization, he said it will only get worse.
County Executive Marc Molinaro told those gathered that “driving while impaired is a choice and too many individuals make a tragic choice that not only impacts their own life but sadly and tragically impacts the lives of so many others.” Molinaro noted that this is the start of Memorial Day weekend where we honor fallen heroes and social gatherings over the weekend allow people the opportunity to make “dumb” decisions when it comes to impaired driving.
Dutchess County District Attorney Bill Grady said “today is not about statistics, it’s about victims and I think it’s only appropriate to mention one statistic that ties into this; since 1981, there have been over 400 deaths and serious injuries as a result of alcohol-related crashes in Dutchess County.”