Summer brings so many positive activities and opportunities for New Yorkers every year that it can be difficult to find time for everything you’d like to do in those few, blissful months. With so many scenic, outdoor destinations to explore and adventures to embark on, many of us spend an inordinate amount of time on the road this time of year. With so many trips to take and parties to attend, now more than ever, we must focus on keeping our roads safe for travelers and pedestrians by keeping dangerous and reckless drivers off our streets and highways.
Upon being sworn in as a legislator in 2011, the first bill I sponsored sought to impose a “third strike” penalty on repeat drunk drivers. Senator Marty Golden and I crafted this legislation in an effort to prevent tragic drunk driving accidents by taking away a repeat offender’s right to get behind the wheel after a third conviction related to driving under the influence. Penalties include revoking a driver’s license for 10 years upon one’s third DWI conviction, suspending one’s vehicle registration and revoking license plates while the license is invalidated, and suspending one’s vehicle registration and revoking license plates for any convicted drunk driver caught driving with a suspended license. Not only does drunk driving claim the lives of more than 350 New Yorkers each year, but related tragedies occur right here in New York City far too often. In the summer of 2011, Staten Island resident Charles Pelicone was convicted of driving while intoxicated for a third time. Sadly, Pelicone had lost his own son four years earlier to a drunk driving accident. This is why we need to take every measure possible to stamp out recidivism.
Senator Golden and I also are sponsoring legislation to crack down on hit-and-run drivers who flee the scene of a crime. The bill would increase the penalties for drivers who leave the scene of an accident without stopping or reporting it, repeat hit-and-run drivers who injure others, and drivers that flee the scene of an accident where someone was killed. Just last week, 33-year-old Amjad Barakat was struck while crossing 72nd Street at 7th Avenue and died at the scene. The driver has yet to be located. Unspeakable tragedies like these are the reason that this legislation cannot wait.
I wish all of our summer travelers a safe and happy season. I hope that we all can take the time to be mindful of our fellow drivers and pedestrians so that tragedies like the one involving Mr. Barakat can be prevented.