When the newly adopted Leandra’s Law goes into effect, New York will be the 10th state to require that anyone convicted of misdemeanor or felony drunk driving will be required to install an ignition interlock device on their car, the New York Times is reporting.
An ignition interlock device keeps a car from starting until the driver proves, via a breath test, that he or she does not have any alcohol in their system. The new law in the state is Leandra’s Law, named for a young girl who was killed in 2009 by a drunk driver. Her father, Lenny Rosado, became an outspoken advocate of tougher DUI laws after he lost his daughter.
The law will also make it a felony to drive drunk with a child under the age of 16 in the car.
Those required to install the ignition interlock device will have to keep it installed for a minimum of six months. The device must be installed at the driver’s expense. They are leased to drivers for a monthly charge of $70-110, according to the Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives. Installation of the devices can be free, or can range in cost to up to $100.
According to the director of the OPCA, Robert Maccarone, an average of 25,000 drunk driving convictions come down every year in New York State – 4,000 of which occur in New York City.
The ignition interlock devices, which must be purchased from one of several state-contracted manufacturers, have a very low tolerance for alcohol levels in the breath of drivers. A car with the device won’t start if it registers anything that is above a .025 percent blood alcohol content. The legal limit is .08 percent.
There are a number of ways to deter falsified tests, as well. To keep a sober accomplice from blowing into the device, they have rolling retests, which administer another test every 5 to 15 minutes. This means that, to cheat the device again, the drunk driver would need to have the same sober friend with them.
When a retest fails, the horn starts to beep, and then a loud noise is admitted from the ignition interlock device.
There are also devices that snap a photo of the driver at the time the test is administered. Devices can also be configured to limit the hours a driver can drive the car, and they can resist hot-wiring and push-starting.
Denna Cohen, the president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Long Island chapter, says that the new law going into effect will save lives. “This is absolutely effective,” she said. “One drunk driver is all it takes to wreak havoc on a family.”
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety agrees that the devices are effective. “We know that alcohol interlocks do work to reduce recidivism, and strengthening interlocks to include first offenders is the logical step to curb alcohol-impaired driving,” said Russ Rader, a spokesperson for the group.
Maccarone said that, in New Mexico, a similar program reducing repeat DUI offenses by 37 percent between 2002 and 2008.
Jamie Hicks was driving erratically when her daughter called police from the backseat of the car to report her mother driving drunk with herself and her 10 year old brother in the car.
Hicks was driving down I-84 and was weaving in and out of traffic. According to CNN, Hicks’ daughter was frantic the first time she called, because her mother was “driving erratically and speaking incoherently.”
The cell phone cut out, which prompted 911 operators to call back several times, trying to reach Hicks’ daughter so that the car remained monitored. By the time, they managed to contact her again, all they heard was an argument.
Hicks was apparently furious at her daughter for telling the police about her intoxicated state. Thankfully, the car was pulled over by this time. Operators for 911 were able to locate the cell phone signal of the vehicle and the police arrived soon after.
According to the New York Post, Hicks made some admissions to the police about the fact that she had been drinking. Her blood alcohol level was .18, which is more than twice the legal limit of .08 in New York State.
Hicks was charged with a felony DUI for violating Leandra’s Law, a New York statute that makes driving intoxicated with children in the vehicle a felony. She has been released on $2,000 bail and is due back in court next month. The children have been released into their grandparents care, according to ABClocal.com
Stephen Hicks, the grandfather, is quoted as saying “The family is very grateful my granddaughter had the common sense to make that call . . . The situation is — how can I put it — a terrible lapse in judgment.”
Hicks had been driving her children back from the grandparents home in the first place. The drive between Southbury, Connecticut where the grandparents live and Brewster, New York, where Hicks was arrested is about 45 minutes long.
Regardless, this twelve year old girl is incredibly brave to go against her mother and do what was best for everyone in the car. Police will not be releasing the tapes, but they do recognize the fact that if more children “told” on their parents there may be fewer DUI crashes.
The bottom line is that if you see someone behaving as though they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, do not let them behind the wheel.
A proposed DUI law working its way through the New York senate and assembly would close a loophole and make it more difficult for drunk drivers to avoid prosecution.
The bill is commonly known as Jack Shea’s law after the Olympic medalist in the skeleton who was killed by a drunk driver in 2002. It has moved through the New York Senate, and now it must pass the assembly to go into effect.
Senator Charles Fuschillo, a supporter of the legislation, told the Legislative Gazette he was confident it would pass the assembly.
The new legislation revolves around Section 1194 of the state’s Vehicle and Traffic Law. This section defines who is allowed and qualified to take a blood sample at the scene of an accident from a person suspected of drunk driving.
In 2002, the driver who killed Jack Shea was able to avoid charges because of a loophole in this section. The argument that got him out of prosecution was that a physician had to directly supervise the drawing of blood samples.
In the Shea case, a police officer had requested that an emergency medical technician take the blood sample without a doctor present. Instead, a registered nurse and physician’s assistant oversaw the drawing of blood.
The blood sample had shown the driver to have a .15 blood-alcohol level at the time of the blood test.
Based on this loophole, however, the court had to dismiss the case, even in appeal.
The new legislation would take away the need for a doctor to be on the scene, and it would broaden the options for those with the authority to draw blood to nurse practitioners, licensed practical nurses and other professionals with a license to draw blood in New York.
When time is essential in many DUI cases, the ability of emergency first responders to draw blood could mean the difference in some situations. As it stands now, the law could discount blood drawn by EMTs and tested for blood-alcohol content.
Also, often in rural parts of the state, a doctor is not available to oversee blood drawing within a sufficient time period.
“This is another measure to strengthen provisions to get DWI drivers prosecuted,” said Fuschillo. He has been working on the bill since 2006.
If New York Assemblyman Felix Ortiz has his way, the state will soon require alcohol-detecting ignition interlock devices on all cars and trucks.
Several states have or are considering provisions that require ignition interlock devices for those with a DUI conviction, but New York would be the first state to require the devices on every vehicle.
The issue is far from settled, with vocal advocates on both sides: civil liberties groups argue that the inconvenience to the large percentage of adults who don’t drink at all is unwarranted, and raise questions about exactly where the line would be drawn. Current ignition interlock devices won’t allow a car to start if there is any trace of alcohol detected.
But MADD and others committed to reducing drunk driving point out that ignition interlocks are the only sure way to prevent DUI, and a former National Transportation Safety Board Official is lobbying automakers to include the wiring for ignition interlocks in all cars, so they’ll be easier to install.
The success or failure of the New York bill will undoubtedly have long-term effects beyond the borders of that state, so its progress is worth watching no matter where you live.