Booze, cruise and lose. New York is cracking down on intoxicated drivers.
Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced an initiative to remove drivers with repeat alcohol or drug-related driving convictions from New York’s roads.
According to Cuomo, these more rigid regulations, enforced by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), will make the state among the toughest in the nation against drivers who persistently get behind the wheel while intoxicated.
“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.”
Every year, more than 300 people are killed and 6,000 injured on roads throughout the state as a result of drunk driving.
Over the past few years, the percentage of crashes resulting in an injury where the driver had three or more alcohol related convictions has increased, spiking from 22 percent in 2005 to 28 percent in 2010.
Current law dictates that individuals with multiple DUI offenses cannot permanently lose their licenses. Under New York State law, the only scenario where a license could be indefinitely removed is if they have two alcohol or drug related convictions stemming from crashes that resulted in physical injury or death.
Under the new regulations, the DMV will deny applications for reinstatement of a license if the applicant has five or more alcohol or drug-related driving convictions during his or her lifetime or three or more alcohol or drug-related driving convictions in the last 25 years as well as one other serious driving offense during that period. Serious driving offenses include a fatal crash, accumulating 20 or more violation points within the last 25 years, or having two or more driving convictions each worth five or more points.
Forest Hills attorney Rochelle Berliner, who represents individuals busted for drunk driving, said cases where clients have multiple DUIs are uncommon.
“It’s a tough state to have a DUI arrest,” said Berliner. “There’s not a lot of flexibility with the district attorney’s office and this is going to make it worse.”
According to Berliner, penalties for drinking and driving vary depending on the county in which the arrest occurs and the perpetrator’s blood alcohol level during the police-administered Breathalyzer exam.
In Queens, if a first-offending individual’s blood alcohol level is relatively close to .08 — the legal limit in New York State — they have an increased chance of getting the misdemeanor infraction of impaired. Logging a blood alcohol level over .18 is known as aggravated and results in harsher consequences.
Berliner said she understood why there are constant efforts to increase the severity of the penalty for drinking and driving. However, the attorney was not completely convinced that the law will keep people from operating a car while intoxicated.
“I don’t think it’s going to affect a huge number of people but it just keeps increasing the negative penalties for a person who gets caught driving under the influence,” said Berliner. “It’s better to get people the help they need before they get to that point.”