Last year, New York state saw about 12,000 DUI-related deaths, according to local CBS news.
As a result, the state has recently enacted strict new DUI laws to help decrease the number of fatal accidents. State Governor David Patterson signed the Child Passenger Protection Act, which outlines some of the toughest DUI laws in the country – according to the governor.
Patterson hopes it will help provide police officers with the tools they need to better prosecute DUI offenders.
The Child Passenger Protection Act is also referred to as Leandra’s Law, for an 11-year-old girl named Leandra Rosado who was killed as a passenger in a drunk driving accident.
Leandra was in a car with a friend’s drunk mother, Carmen Huertas, behind the wheel. Huertas caused a car accident, causing the car to flip. Leandra was flung from the vehicle, and later died from head and chest injuries. All other passengers survived the accident.
According to a local CBS report, Huertas was charged with manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, DUI and assault.
Under Leandra’s Law, anyone driving a car while under the influence of drugs or alcohol while a child under 16 is a passenger can be charged with a felony, and may serve up to four years in jail if convicted – even if it is a first DUI offense.
Drunk drivers who cause serious injuries to a child could be charged with a Class C felony – punishable with up to 15 years in prison.
If a child dies as a result of drunk driving, the offender can be charged with a Class B felony and spend up to 25 years in prison.
In addition to increased DUI penalties, parents caught driving under the influence will be reported to the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment.
Leandra’s Law also makes it mandatory for any convicted drunk driver to have an ignition interlock device in their car.
Interlock devices require the driver to breathe into them before the vehicle will start. If any alcohol is detected in the breath test, the car will not start.
These new laws are meant to curb all future DUI fatalities – not just those of children. Hopefully drivers will think twice before getting behind the wheel after one too many drinks.