Editorial: Get repeat offenders off the road

Legislature dragging its feet on legislation to protect the public from repeat drunk drivers

The other day, a man was pulled over for not lowering his high beams and was found to have had his license suspended previously 43 times.

It’s one of the amazing things about the New York Nanny State that you can be a repeat offender behind the wheel and somehow keep driving.

None of this man’s past offenses, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles, had anything to do with drunken driving.

Still, despite all the revocations, he was still able to drive.

The same thing happens with repeat drunk drivers, a much more dangerous type of driver.

Six months ago, 66-year-old Wayne Wells of Rotterdam was arrested for driving while intoxicated for the 11th time. Of those past arrests, eight resulted in convictions, including four felonies.

Yet, they caught him behind the wheel once again.

At the time, we recommended several pieces of state legislation to help deter such repeat offenders from threatening the public.

Among them were bills to increase the mandatory minimum fines and driver’s license revocation periods for alcohol and drug-related offenses (A3225); another that would stiffen penalties and raise the charges for higher levels of intoxication (A2181); another that would impound a DWI suspect’s vehicle for a short time; and another to raise the felony level charges for drivers who seriously injure or kill someone while driving with a suspended or revoked license (S3299/A3759).

Guess how many of these bills were signed into law. Correct. Exactly none.

There’s another bill pending for repeat DWI offenders, A0995, that actually would start allowing the state to seize the vehicles of the driver for six months after a second DWI conviction. After a third conviction, the car would be confiscated and sold.

Household members who use the car would have to post a $1,000 bond to keep it on the road, but would forfeit the bond and the car after the third conviction.

That might be a bit drastic — punishing a wife or child because of someone else’s drinking. But that might be where we’re headed if we don’t start imposing tougher sanctions on the repeat drunk drivers themselves.

Other pending legislation would increase sanctions against drivers ordered to use ignition interlock devices, which prevent a car from being started by a drunk person. State laws need to be toughened against those who don’t install the devices when ordered, who sabotage them or who have someone else breathe into them so they can drive.

Any of these tough but reasonable, common-sense bills could make a difference in reducing the threat of repeat drunk drivers.

When lawmakers return to Albany, they need to push these bills through before another repeat offender causes a tragedy.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

Leave a Reply