Drunk drivers are not only a danger to themselves, but also everyone with whom they share the road.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced a multi-pronged initiative to keep drivers with a history of repeat alcohol or drug related offenses off the road. These new regulations will place New York among the states with the toughest protection in the nation against repeat offenders.
"We are saying 'enough is enough' to those who have chronically abused their driving privileges and threatened the safety of other drivers, passengers and pedestrians," said Cuomo. "This comprehensive effort will make New York safer by keeping these drivers off our roadways."
According to the report issued by the governor's office, more than 300 people are killed and more than 6,000 are injured every year on New York's highways as a direct result of alcohol-related crashes. Crashes in which alcohol is a factor are also ten times more likely to cause a fatality than those that do not involve alcohol.
Currently, drivers who are convicted of multiple drug or alcohol related driving offenses can't permanently lose their licenses. These new regulations, however, aim to change that.
"I think that this is outstanding," said Chautauqua County Sheriff Joe Gerace. "This is a huge step. It's terrific. I've personally witnessed the carnage that drunk drivers have caused people and I've always felt that these repeat offenders should never drive again."
The regulations proposed by Gov. Cuomo include the ability to review the lifetime record of all drivers who apply to have their license reinstated after it has been revoked. If a driver has five or more drug- or alcohol-related driving convictions in his or her lifetime, or three or more in a 25-year period and at least one other serious offense, the Department of Motor Vehicles will have the authority to permanently revoke their license.
Further sections in the new regulations will allow for delayed re-licensing, driving restrictions and requirements for interlock devices for repeat offenders. Interlock devices are already mandatory for anyone convicted of driving while intoxicated in New York state. These devices are installed by a certified technician at the expense of the convicted driver and they require a driver to blow a clean air sample before the ignition system of the car will engage. Some vehicles are outfitted with even more sophisticated interlock systems that include cameras as well.
The final regulation in the multi-pronged initiative will be the end of the reduction of mandatory suspensions. Currently, repeat offenders can regain their full driving privileges in as little as seven weeks if they complete a drinking driver program, offered through the DMV. New regulations, however, will prevent convicted drivers from regaining their privileges until their full term of suspension or revocation has been completed.
"This is another aid in helping us reduce the drunk driving trips that are being taken," said Gerace. "The state is taking the position that they're not going to give the license back and I hope that's a deterrent to some. The state shouldn't sanction their driving when they are repeat offenders. I've seen these repeat offenders in my history that have ended up killing or seriously injuring others when they have multiple previous charges. It's disturbing."
This latest initiative from the Governor's office comes less than a month after he announced a new data sharing initiative that gives law enforcement officers in the field access to DMV data through a secure internet connection.
"There's no doubt about it, the governor seems to be treating this like the problem it is," said Gerace. "It's long overdue and I'm glad that he's taking the initiative."