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Did you know? Riding your lawn mower while drunk on a highway is illegal

Call it MWI – mowing while intoxicated.

For the second time in less than a week, a Western New York man has been arrested on felony drunk driving charges, accused of driving a riding lawn mower with a blood alcohol content more than .08 percent.

“Driving drunk in and of itself is not an intelligent thing to do,” said Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph A. Gerace.

But drunken mower driving?

Gerace says it’s not the first time he’s heard of it. But he assured it’s not part of an alarming new trend.

“It’s pretty rare,” he said.

The most recent incident involved a Village of Perry man now held on $11,000 cash bail in the Wyoming County Jail on a slew of felonies ranging from criminal mischief to driving while intoxicated, Wyoming County Sheriff’s officials said Friday.

The incident began Wednesday, when sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to a “domestic incident” on Woodruff Street in Silver Springs.

Eugene B. Matteson, 48, had broken into his mother’s house and damaged items inside, deputies said.

On their way to the scene, deputies spotted Matteson driving a riding lawn mower on West Lake Road. They stopped him and arrested him on a felony driving while intoxicated charge. The charge was a felony because of a previous DWI conviction in 2005, sheriff’s officials noted.

Investigators went to the mother’s house, where they were told Matteson had yelled at and threatened a victim and caused about $400 in damage.

Matteson was charged with felony criminal mischief in the third degree for the incidents at the house.

Matteson was arraigned in Warsaw Village Court and committed to the Wyoming County Jail in lieu of $10,000 cash bail or $20,000 bond on the DWI-related charges. He also remained in jail on the domestic charges in lieu of $1,000 cash bail or $2,000.

In addition, an order of protection was issued for the victim. Deputies also confiscated Matteson’s firearms. The mower was impounded.

Six days earlier, Chautauqua County sheriff’s deputies handled their own case of suspected drunken lawn mower driving in the Town of Sherman.

Eric J. Lacross, 48, was stopped at 10 p.m. May 28 on Sherman Steadman Road while operating a riding lawn mower. He was pulling a trailer behind the mower.

Deputies stopped him after noticing that the vehicle did not have adequate lighting.

When they talked to him, deputies discovered Lacross was consuming an alcoholic beverage.

Lacross, who had two prior DWI convictions in the past decade, was charged with felony DWI and cited for having insufficient tail lamps. He received an additional lighting violation for the trailer. He also was charged with consuming alcohol in a motor vehicle, identified as a Cub Cadet mower.

He was arraigned in Town of Sherman Court and released on his own recognizance.

Gerace pointed out that drunken mower driving is a bad idea for many reasons.

“First and foremost, they shouldn’t be operating anything that’s motorized under the influence of alcohol or drugs,” he said.

Second, he said, the vast majority of riding lawn mowers aren’t allowed on highways.

“They’re unregistered and uninspected,” he said. “They are not even registerable.”

Gerace said most mowers aren’t capable of reaching normal highway speeds. While some farm equipment is allowed on highways, those vehicles are highly regulated, as well.

The sheriff speculated that some people may think they’re safe from being arrested because they’re on a mower.

“They might think that,” he said, “but they’re not. Absolutely not.”

email: mbecker@buffnews.com