Legislator warned about drunk driving; charged with DWI

Brian Kolb wrote warning of DWI to constituents just last week

WBEN Newsroom
January 01, 2020 - 7:57 pm
NYS Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb/Ontario County Sheriff's Office

NYS Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb/Ontario County Sheriff's Office

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VICTOR, NY (WBEN/AP)  — The top Republican in the New York State Assembly was charged on New Year’s Eve for driving while intoxicated and just a week after he wrote a column warning citizens against getting behind the wheel drunk.

Brian M. Kolb, R-Canandaigua, who has represented the 131st Assembly District just outside of Rochester, New York, said in a statement that he was arrested near his home and was a “lapse in judgement.”

“This was a terrible lapse in judgment, one I have urged others not to make, and I take full responsibility for it,” the assemblyman said in a brief statement.

Authorities said they were called to a crash in Victor, New York, just before 10:30 p.m. after a vehicle ran into a ditch. Kolb was found to be the driver of the 2018 GMC Acadia that crashed in front of his home. The SUV is Kolb’s state-issued vehicle.

A deputy with the Ontario County Sheriff’s office administered several field sobriety tests, which Kolb failed, before taking him to the county jail.

While at the jail, an alcohol breath test indicated Kolb’s blood-alcohol content was over 0.08%, authorities said.

No one else was injured in the crash. Officials did not say where Kolb was driving from or how far he had driven to his home.

Kolb said there was no excuse for what occurred.

“I made the wrong decision, and it is one I deeply regret,” his statement said.

Kolb has represented the district since 2000 and has served as the Assembly minority leader since 2009. The district covers all of Ontario County and a portion of Seneca County. In 2018, Kolb briefly campaigned to unseat Gov. Andrew Cuomo before dropping out of the race.

On Christmas Eve, Kolb wrote a column in the upstate Daily Messenger newspaper warned against people driving while under the influence of alcohol during the holidays, and acknowledged December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month.

“Many of our holiday traditions, especially our New Year’s Eve celebrations, involve indulging in spirits,” he wrote. “Done safely, and in moderation, these can be wonderful holiday experiences. However, tragedy can be only one bad decision away.”

News of Kolb’s arrest prompted Kieran Michael Lalor, a republican who represents the 105th district, to call for him to step down via Twitter from his post.

Kolb “should step down as Assembly Minority Leader,” Lalor wrote. “That he hasn’t done so already is a disgrace.”

Just last week, the lawmaker wrote an op-ed piece urging people to avoid drinking and driving:

As we prepare to revel in the upcoming holiday celebrations, it is especially important to remember to do so safely. Many of our holiday traditions, especially our New Year’s Eve celebrations, involve indulging in spirits. Done safely, and in moderation, these can be wonderful holiday experiences. However, tragedy can be only one bad decision away.

December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month, and its message is important: do not operate a vehicle if your ability to do so is impaired. Drunk driving is not only dangerous to the driver, but to vehicle passengers, bystanders and other drivers. Please consider the ramifications of impaired driving, especially as we prepare to close out 2019 and welcome in a new decade.

As part of December’s awareness month, New York State has also embarked on a “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” enforcement campaign. Started earlier this month, it runs through Jan. 1, 2020. According to information from the Special Traffic Options Program for Driving While Intoxicated, last year alone there were 4,142 arrests for impaired driving and 144,197 tickets and violations issued. This year, let’s try to get both of those numbers to zero.

THERE IS ALWAYS A SAFE WAY TO GET HOME

There is no excuse for impaired driving. Here in New York, we have taxis, ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft and a robust public transportation system. Please, use these services, or a sober, reliable designated driver when making your way about town.

Further, law enforcement in the state has encouraged drivers to download and use the Stop DWI “Have a Plan” app. By thinking ahead and coming up with a plan before imbibing, many regrettable situations can be avoided.

There is much to celebrate this year, and our time with family and friends is to be cherished. It is my sincerest hope that we can reduce and ultimately eliminate drunk driving tragedies that unfortunately mar the season and, for too many families, turn a season of cheer into a never-ending nightmare. Together, by making responsible choices, we can combat these unneeded, avoidable situations and ensure everyone has a safe, happy and healthy holiday season.

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