Lawmakers Hail New DWI Law
Following two recent accidents where young kids perished at the hands of drunken drivers, Governor David Paterson has signed into law legislation sharply increasing the penalties for future such occurrences.
“These are the types of penalties that this state has needed for a long time,” Paterson said as he signed the law last week.
State Senator Frank Padavan (R–C/Bellerose), a cosponsor of the bill, noted the new law “significantly increases criminal penalties for any adult that would recklessly drive drunk with a child in the car and it sends a clear message that if you are going to callously endanger the life of a child and of innocent motorists or pedestrians, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law with the strongest penalties in the country.”
Hailing the enactment of the bipartisan measure, Democratic Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr. (Howard Beach), stated, “This says loud and clear that the party is over to irresponsible New York drivers who won’t ensure the safety of their most vulnerable passengers —children.”
Also applauding passage of the tough new law were Assemblymembers Michael Gianaris (DAstoria) and Catherine Nolan (D-Ridgewood).
Gianaris, a longtime advocate of tougher DWI laws, stated, “There is no reason for these tragedies to occur when methods exist that can prevent them. Too often, it is the same offender that put people’s lives at risk again and again.”
Nolan noted, “Drunk driving is an incredibly reckless and dangerous crime, made all the more senseless and heinous when a child’s life is on the line.”
Under the new law, the maximum penalty for a DWI incident which causes the death of a child passenger is increased from seven years to 25 years in prison; the maximum penalty for a DWI incident which causes serious injury to a child passenger is increased from four to 15 years in prison, and any DWI incident with a child passenger is increased from a misdemeanor to a felony and the maximum penalty is raised from one to four years in prison.
The law also mandates installing an ignition interlocking device in a DWI offender’s car. The driver breathes into the device and if it shows he is intoxicated, the car will not start.
The new law, called “Leandra's Law”, honors the memory of 11-year-old Leandra Rosado, who was killed in an alcohol-related car accident last month. Leandra’s father, Lenny, joined by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), vigorously lobbied for the more severe penalties eventually enacted.
Earlier this year, a Long Island woman driving while drunk in the wrong direction on the Taconic Parkway in Westchester collided with another car, killing herself, four children, and three people in the other car.