Schimminger Introduces the "Guy Kyler Act"

April 3, 2003

State Assemblyman Robin Schimminger announced today that he has introduced legislation that would enact the "Guy Kyler Act" to improve safety on New York State’s highways and waterways.

The measure (A.7306) would require that, in cases involving either boating while intoxicated (BWI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) charges, earlier convictions on either charge be considered previous offenses and result in tougher penalties. It would also require the operator of a boat involved in an accident in which there is loss of life, personal injury or damage to property to notify the police as soon as he or she is physically able – the same as for similar automobile accidents. Current law allows boaters a full 24 hours to make the report.

The legislator said that information uncovered in a lengthy investigation of a June 14, 1992, Niagara River boating accident that killed 22-year-old Geatano "Guy" Kyler provided the impetus for the legislation. According to witnesses, Paul LaPatra, who admitted in court to ramming the Kyler vessel and leaving the scene of the accident, had been drinking heavily the evening of the collision. At the time, LaPatra’s driver’s license had been revoked after multiple drunk-driving convictions.

Schimminger said, "The collision that took the life of young Guy Kyler in the Niagara River clearly illustrates the grave danger posed to innocent people by those who use alcohol or drugs and then operate a car or boat. Repeat offenders should be subject to especially tough penalties regardless of whether their previous offenses occurred on land or on water."

Reflecting their danger to society and failure to learn from a past mistake, repeat offenders of boating-while-intoxicated and driving-while-intoxicated laws are subject to increased penalties including revocation of operator privileges, large fines and possible incarceration. However, because there is no linkage in statute between these offenses, it is possible for someone to be convicted in separate cases of operating a vessel and a car, and have these violators treated as a first time offender in each instance. The Guy Kyler Act would hold such violators accountable for a history of irresponsible behavior operating powerful and potentially deadly motorized vehicles and vessels by punishing them as repeat offenders.

The state Navigation Law’s current accident-reporting timeframe of 24 hours dates back to an era before the advent of modern ship-to-shore communication and cell phone technology.

Schimminger said, "Such a lengthy time to report a serious accident has no applicability in this day and age. When a person’s life may rely on the speed at which EMTs and other emergency personnel can locate and treat that individual, a law that allows for 24 hours to pass before reporting a boating accident is surely unacceptable."

State Senator George D. Maziarz is sponsoring the legislation in the Senate.