Drivers are constantly told not to get behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but based on recent tragedies, it's clear the message doesn't always get through. YNN's Kaitlyn Lionti tells us about an effort to change that with a special tree full of wishes for a safe holiday season.
HAMBURG, N.Y. — More than 1,000 ornaments are on display here at the Fairgrounds in Hamburg - the work of local elementary school children, made by hand with a message from the heart.
Each ornament features a snowman safely driving a car or a snowmobile free of drugs and alcohol.
"To put that message forward and say, mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, whomever in their life, 'I want you to have a safe holiday, and not put anybody's lives at risk including our own,'" said Jessica LaFalce of WNY United Against Drug and Alcohol Abuse.
It's called the "Drive Safe Tree", an effort of Px20, a collaboration of substance abuse prevention and mental health agencies in Erie County.
The tree is part of this year's Festival of Lights event at the Fairgrounds, which is expected to draw 50,000 visitors.
LaFalce said, "I do think a message of this nature gets across to adults much easier and is more readily accepted when it comes from a child. If they take the time to listen to what the child has to say, it does sink in a little bit more."
The "Drive Safe Tree" is one of many local initiatives part of National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, and this holiday season.
The Erie County Sheriff's Office will have about 30 billboards out to raise awareness and law enforcement will be stepping up patrol efforts on the roadways.
"Across the county, every agency, including the Sheriff's Office, there's going to be increased vigilence, we are going to target specifically intoxicated drivers," said Chief Scott Joslyn of the Erie County Sheriff's Office.
Those with Px20 say the consequences of impaired driving were made clear when seven-month-old old Baylee Dion was killed Tuesday by an alleged drunk driver.
"The only good that can come from such a tragic, terrible thing is opportunity for us to understand and realize the dangers of this, reflect on it, and take steps for ourselves and help take care of others to stop this from happening again," said Matthew Smith of Preventionfocus.