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Long Island Not Such a Hotbed of Drunk Driving Accidents After All

A July article in the New York Times warrants a summary. It reported that Suffolk County on Long Island has more drunk driving crashes and fatalities than any other county in New York. Nassau County is in second place. In the case of Suffolk County, this sad fact has been true since 2001.

Long Island officials say that numbers such as these do not tell the complete story. What is more important, they say, is measuring the improvement. Simply comparing the number of crashes caused by driver impairment with the number in other counties leaves out many factors that should be considered, they say.

One thing that this number doesn’t take into account is cars per capita. In Manhattan, for example, not many people have cars. On Long Island, in contrast, most people either own cars or have access to one. There is little public transit, forcing people to rely on personal vehicles. This means that people on Long Island are far more likely to either drive or be a passenger in a vehicle than in New York City.

Another difference between New York City and Long Island is that people can drive much faster for longer periods of time in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Higher speed increases the likelihood of catastrophic injury and death in a crash.

Another thing to remember is that the numbers that put Nassau and Suffolk counties at the top of the list are raw numbers. They don’t take into account the population density, number of registered vehicles and number of licensed drivers. When factors such as these are considered, these two Long Island counties fall to the middle of the list when compared with other counties in New York. In short, the likelihood of dying in a Suffolk County crash in 2013 was lower than in many other counties in New York.

It turns out that when other factors are taken into account, counties other than Nassau and Suffolk actually have a higher rate of drunk driving accidents. St. Lawrence County, in northern New York, has the highest rate of drunk driving crashes in the state, followed by Saratoga and Seneca counties, also in upstate New York. Long Island counties, in contrast, fare much better when a fuller picture is presented.