NEW YORK—Members of the New York branch of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and New York state lawmakers held a news conference on Wednesday to urge new reform in drunk driving laws. In light of local events, new penalties for drunk driving accidents involving children were discussed along with A7196A, a bill aimed at requiring all convicted drunk drivers to have alcohol breath sensors on their ignitions.
Due to accidents on the Taconic Parkway and the Henry Hudson Parkway, state officials and MADD are looking to pass a child endangerment law that encompasses driving while intoxicated (DWI) accidents where children are hurt or killed. The effort also aims to increase the penalty for drunk drivers who put children in harms way. The new bill has already gained 77 cosponsors in the New York State Assembly.
“Our vision of eliminating drunk driving can become a reality," said Vincent Bellino, Community Action Site leader of MADD Dutchess County. "The first step is implementing proven solutions to prevent deaths and injuries due to drunk driving. One solution is current alcohol ignition interlock technology, which could not only save thousands of lives, but also gives offenders the ability to drive without endangering the public.”
The Senate has already passed S27B, a similar version of A7196A, and the members of MADD are currently awaiting the assembly to follow suit. The interlock system has proven to reduce repeat drunk driving arrests by more than 50 percent. With two local accidents involving the death of local children, members of MADD are increasing their persistence to put an end to drunk driving.
There were more than 300 people killed by drunk drivers last year in New York state. Since 1998, over 4,000 people have died in drunk driving crashes in the state.
“In 2002, I was struck by a drunk driver and the resulting injuries forced me to give up my family dental practice," said Assemblyman Joel Miller. "Had the driver, who had been convicted of driving drunk previously, been forced to use the alcohol ignition interlock, the entire incident could have been avoided.
"I am lucky to be alive today, and more people can avoid this situation if only New York State would enact this vital public safety legislation. We should all be grateful to MADD as well as local law enforcement agencies. … I can think of no better way to compliment their efforts than to pass A7196A now."
Studies have shown that two-thirds of those with suspended licenses due to drunk driving drive without a license. Records also indicate that the average driver arrested for his first DWI have driven drunk more than 80 times before he is arrested.
MADD is pushing to have the interlocked reform passed as soon as possible along with its Child Passenger Protection Act.