Behind every new public-safety law is someone stupid enough, reckless enough, inconsiderate enough or dangerous enough to create the need for it.
Two bills pending in the Legislature this year fit that description.
You’d think that all drivers, even those in a hurry, would understand their obligation to protect the safety of school children by stopping whenever a bus is stopped to pick up or drop off kids.
Yet amazingly, between 50,000 and 64,000 drivers a day in New York still pass stopped school buses.
A very visual example of that statistic happened just last month in Norwich.
A video from a school bus shows the bus driver grabbing the hood of a student’s jacket just as the student was about to step off the bus into the path of a car passing by at a high speed.
The video is stunning in that it shows just how vulnerable our children are. The boy wasn’t hurt, but the driver got away.
Because people still keep passing school buses, the Legislature is prepared to pass a bill (A4950B/S4524B) that would allow municipalities to authorize the use of cameras attached to school buses that would be triggered when a car passes the bus.
Right now, the only way a driver can be cited for passing a bus in New York is if they’re caught in the act by police.
Drivers caught on these new cameras would be subject to fines of $250 to $300. It’s sad that this law is necessary.
Another law we wouldn’t need were it not for people too stupid, dangerous and reckless is one that would boost the criminal charge to a felony for drivers who drive at high levels of intoxication.
One bill (A4472) would make criminal intoxication a felony punishable by 3 to 4 years in prison and up to $3,000 in fines for drivers caught driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) between 0.25 and 0.30 percent.
Another part of the bill would make the charge of aggravated criminal intoxication a felony punishable by 3 to 5 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines for someone driving with a BAC of 0.30 or more.
At 0.25 percent, all mental, physical and sensory functions are severely impaired and the person is at near total loss of motor function control. A level of 0.30 or higher is considered extremely life threatening. People that drunk have little comprehension of where they are, may pass out suddenly and be difficult to wake up.
Over the weekend in Queensbury, a Vermont man was stopped near the shopping outlets with a BAC of 0.35 percent. But despite his condition, he only could be charged with a misdemeanor.
We need tougher laws because of people like this.
For some people, no penalties are enough to stop them from risking their lives and the lives of others.
But for those who might be reached, tougher laws and tougher enforcement are, unfortunately, a necessity.