We Must Do More to Curb Drunk Drivers
May 5, 2004
Let me tell you about a boy named Brandon. Brandon is a remarkable young man who has paid - - and will keep on paying - - a terrible price for a stupid choice he made when he was just 17 years old. Here’s what Brandon did the day he wished had never happened. It was the end of a long and exhausting day, and Brandon had a few drinks at a party. After leaving the party, he managed to drive his friends home, and then wrapped his car around a tree. He was in a coma for 75 days and in rehab for more than five years. His life will never be the same. His speech is slurred, his walk is unsteady, and his memory is permanently impaired. The friends he made in high school are well out of college and are into their careers. They have moved on. Brandon fights every day just to get his life going. Brandon could be anybody’s son, brother or friend. We often hear about people getting behind the wheel drunk, but you never think it will happen in your community or to anyone you know. A few weeks ago, a Massapequa Park mother, with her two young daughters strapped into the back of her 1999 Plymouth mini-van, was allegedly driving drunk, crashed into a parked Ford Explorer and careened into a utility pole a block from her home. Luckily, no one was seriously injured. I have introduced legislation (A.10526) to address this issue. If a person is convicted of DWI or DWAI and there is a child under 13 years of age in the vehicle, there will be a mandatory suspension of his/her driver’s license for one and a half years and a mandatory enrollment in an alcohol abuse program. We need to take further action to prevent drunk-driving fatalities and reduce the incidence of drunk driving and its potential for destruction of lives and property. That is why I am supporting a six-point anti-drunk driving plan which includes these strong initiatives:
- Create the Class E felony of "Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated" – Create the new crime of Aggravated DWI for drivers found to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.18 or higher.
- Create the Class D felony of "Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated" for a second conviction – Aggravated DWI would be a Class D felony for drivers who have been convicted of one other DWI offense within the previous 10 years.
- Restrict plea bargaining for Aggravated DWI – Any person charged with Aggravated DWI would not be allowed to plead to anything lower than a misdemeanor DWI charge.
- Allow judges to immediately suspend driver’s licenses – Any person charged with Aggravated DWI would have his or her license suspended immediately.
- Increase length of suspension for repeat offenders – Drivers convicted of any DWI charge and who have had other DWI convictions within the preceding 10 years would have their licenses suspended for 30 months, rather than the current one year.
- Create the Class C felony of "Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated" for two-time repeat offenders – Aggravated DWI would be a Class C felony for drivers who have been convicted of two other DWI charges within the previous 10 years.