State legislation that would permanently revoke the licenses of drivers who repeatedly drive recklessly is being met with mixed reviews.
Assemblyman James Tedisco, R-Glenville, and state Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, have proposed Charlotte’s Law, in honor of a Charlotte Gallo, a senior citizen who was struck and killed two years ago near Proctors in downtown Schenectady. The driver of that vehicle had a history of alcohol-related offenses, including a previous accident in which he hit someone while driving drunk.
Under their legislation, a driver would lose his license permanently if he committed any of the following offenses a total of three times within a span of 25 years:
• Conviction for driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.
• Causing an accident that causes serious injury to another person.
• Conviction of vehicular manslaughter.
• Conviction of five violations, each worth at least three points, within five years.
“I think if you look at what is happening in the Capital Region and across the state, there is a lot of carnage,” Tedisco said. “We realize we can’t continue this way.”
He argued that driving is a privilege that not everyone is worthy of, while everyone does have the right to be safe on the road, whether as a pedestrian, on a bike or in a car. After three major offenses, he said drivers have had enough chances.
“We’re not doing enough to keep our constituents safe on the road,” Tedisco said.
Farley said that Schenectady has seen a fair share of victims who might have been protected by this law, while stressing that this a statewide concern, as well.
“There is support for this in the Legislature and the general public,” he said. “People feel very strongly about this.”
Steve Kouray, a Schenectady defense attorney, said he agreed with parts of the legislation, but described some of it as “draconian.” He felt revoking a license for someone causing injury or death repeatedly made sense, but he didn’t think it was logical to apply the same punishment to repeat DWI and traffic offenders.
“That’s a little bit ridiculous,” Kouray said of the bill including repeat DWIs where no one is injured. “To me that’s like pandering … to appeal to the general public.”
He added that it didn’t make sense to include impaired offenses.
A potential problem Kouray sees with the legislation is the fact that many people continue to drive without a license. He said a trip to Schenectady City Court any day of the week would yield a number of people being charged with driving without a license.
“As a practical matter, you’re not going to stop these people from driving,” he said.
Paul Callahan, another defense attorney, said the inclusion of the traffic violations was misguided. He said he wasn’t aware of these types of offenders typically causing more accidents than other drivers.
“I’m not sure if the potential danger to the public warrants this legislation,” he said.
Doris Aiken, of Schenectady, president of Remove Intoxicated Drivers, said she supports the legislation.
“It’s long overdue, and we need to take away the driving privileges of people who continue to abuse the law,” she said.
In her eyes, drivers who abuse alcohol and drive should be treated like sex offenders, who have limitations on their lifestyle.
Citing a five-year study done in Rensselaer County, Aiken said about 35 percent of drunk drivers are repeat offenders.
She said drivers deserve fewer than three strikes, but would settle for this proposal.
“I think you have to start somewhere,” she said. “This does improve the law in New York.”
According to a release from Tedisco, a third DWI conviction is a class D felony with a maximum fine of $10,000, up to seven years in prison and at least a one-year revocation of a driver’s license.
Tedisco lamented the fact that offenders can’t earn their first strike until the bill becomes law, but he said it will create a safer roadway in the future. If it had been in place when Charlotte Gallo was leaving Proctors two years ago, the driver who killed her would not have had his license, he said.