Assemblymember Kevin A. Cahill: Assembly’s Legislation Makes Driving on New York’s Roads Safer

June 22, 2004

Assemblymember Kevin A. Cahill (D-Ulster and Dutchess Counties) announced Assembly passage of a driving safety package he supports that cracks down on serious driving offenders and improves safety on New York’s roads.

"Dangerous drivers can cause accidents that injure and kill people close to us," Assemblymember Cahill said. "The Assembly’s legislation will help prevent accidents by increasing penalties for unsafe driving. The package would also implement measures to help motorists reach their destinations safely."

Making drunk drivers pay

Those who drive under the influence of alcohol would face stiffer penalties under the Assembly’s legislation (A.773-C). Drivers with a blood-alcohol content of 0.20 percent or higher would be charged with the new crime of "aggravated DWI." Those convicted would face twice the fines and loss of license periods as those levied against first-time DWI offenders. Commercial drivers charged with aggravated DWI would face a more serious charge than regular motorists. School bus drivers would face up to seven years in prison instead of the current penalty of up to four years.

The Assembly’s plan also cracks down on DWI offenders by:

  • providing mandatory alcohol assessment and treatment for appropriate offenders
  • increasing the penalty for vehicular manslaughter from up to seven years in prison to a maximum of 15 years for defendants who killed two or more people or had previous DWI-related convictions
  • doubling the loss of license period for those who refuse a chemical test from 6 months to a year on a first offense, and from 12 months to 18 months for a subsequent offense and
  • revoking the licenses of serious repeat DWI offenders

"Too many of our loved ones have had their lives impacted by drunk drivers," Mr. Cahill said. "The Assembly’s legislation sends a clear message that New York does not tolerate drinking and driving. It’s a serious crime with very serious consequences."

Cracking down on dangerous drivers

The Assembly’s plan also punishes unsafe motorists by:

  • increasing the penalty for leaving the scene of a fatal accident from up to four years in prison to a maximum of seven years, and levying a more serious charge for leaving the scene of a physical injury accident (A.11363)
  • charging drivers with multiple convictions for serious traffic offenses who cause a fatal accident with the new crime of "vehicular homicide," which carries a maximum penalty of four years in prison (A.11352)
  • authorizing courts, upon sentencing a person convicted of a moving violation who either is a repeat offender or who the court has reasonable grounds to believe is not qualified to operate a motor vehicle, to issue an order requiring the person to submit to a driver’s license re-examination by the Department of Motor Vehicles (A.10419-B) and
  • directing the state police to establish a special unit to provide accident reconstruction assistance to local district attorneys and require DAs to designate at least one assistant DA as a vehicular crimes prosecutor (A.11453)

"What these measures do is give law enforcement officials enhanced power to protect us from unsafe drivers," Assemblymember Cahill said. "Hopefully, this legislation will also send the message to aggressive motorists that New York State isn’t the place to drive recklessly."

Keeping New York’s roads safe

The package also improves driving safety by:

  • applying the same stringent laws now applicable to school bus drivers to the drivers of pre-school and nursery school children as well (A.11393)
  • requiring trucks and tractor trailers weighing over 18,000 pounds to be equipped with convex mirrors, which improve the driver’s sight range, on the front of the vehicle (A.9971-A)
  • mandating that drivers appropriately reduce their speed when approaching a stopped emergency vehicle with its lights flashing (A.4260-A) and
  • directing the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee to alert the public to the dangers of drowsy and inattentive driving and deliver a report to the Legislature and the Governor on how to combat this problem (A.11392)

Improving road safety near schools

The Assembly’s package also helps make the trip from home to school safer for students. One measure would direct the Department of Transportation to establish a "Safe Routes to Schools" program to improve safety for pedestrian, bicycle and automobile traffic near schools (A.10057-A). Another provision would require the state to pay for the installation of traffic control signals at entrances to schools, relieving local taxpayers of the burden (A.456-A).

To further ensure school bus safety, drivers of buses with a capacity of 10 or fewer passengers not otherwise governed by federal safety standards would be required to have all passengers wear safety belts or be subjected to a civil fine between $25 and $100 (A.5031-B).

"It’s important to feel safe while driving, especially with children in the vehicle," Assemblymember Cahill said. "Punishing dangerous drivers and adopting the other common-sense measures in this legislative package will improve road safety. I urge the Senate and the Governor to follow the Assembly’s lead and pass this life-saving legislation," he concluded.