New state law changes DWI consequencesNEW YORK—Tougher laws for drunken drivers who have a child in the car, will be put in place, just it time for holiday celebrations. “I think it’s a good step forward to further protect our children,” Sergeant Derek Blumberg said.
The new law, known as Leandra’s Law will now make it a felony for a person to drive with a blood-alcohol level greater than 0.08, and have a passenger in the car that is younger than 16 years of age. Even a first offense could potentially put a person in prison for a sentence of up to four years. If a child is seriously injured then a person could have a prison sentence for up to 15 years. If a child is killed then a person could face a prison sentence of up to 25 years or a life sentence.
This new law will also require drivers who have a child in the car when they are charged with drunken driving to surrender their license until they are prosecuted. If a person is convicted, then an ignition-interlock system will have to be installed in the car for at least six months. This system costs about $100 to install and $3 a day to operate. The offender will be required to pay for all of these expenses.
The new law was adopted by New York State Legislature and was signed by Gov. David Paterson in Nov. 2009. The law came into play after Leandra Rosado, 11, died in a drunken-driving accident in New York City in October. The law was also pushed after Diane Schuler, 36, consumed almost an entire bottle of vodka before going the wrong way on a busy highway, and crashing head-on into an SUV. Schuler killed herself, her daughter, three nieces, and three men in the other SUV that she hit.
According to Blumberg, Yates County will maintain the best staff that they can during the holiday season to prevent DWI related crashes. The county has STOP DWI funding for added patrolling. “We will use it to our advantage during the holiday season to keep people safe,” he said.
According to Undersheriff Breck A. Spaulding, who is also the coordinator for the Stop DWI program (Special Traffic Options Program for Driving While Intoxicated), Schuyler County will open up extra DWI patrolling shifts during the holiday season. Officers from the Schuyler County Sheriff’s Office and the Watkins Glen Police Department will sign up for these extra shifts and most of them will be overtime for the officers. Fine money is given to the county to pay for these extra shifts, so “there is no county cost,” he said.
Schuyler County has a specialized DWI patrol car, also funded by fine money that specifically looks for people who are driving while intoxicated to prevent crashes. “We will be patrolling when we can,” Spaulding said.
The Leandra Law just took affect on Dec. 18, 2009. On Aug. 15, 2010, this law will expand and require an ignition-interlock system to be put in the car of any driver convicted of a misdemeanor or felony for DWI.
According to the state Department of Motor Vehicles, in 2008 there were 9,202 alcohol-related crashes in New York. Of those crashes, 488 children under the age of 18 were injured or killed.
Area residents should take extra precautions before getting behind the wheel of a vehicle after consuming alcoholic beverages, especially if there is a child in the car as well. Those who attend upcoming holiday parties and celebrations should designate a sober driver or call a taxi or someone who is sober; it is not worth the risk of injuring yourself, children, or others.