The Child Passenger Protection Act Should Become Law
Governor David A. Paterson hassubmitted legislation, known asThe Child Passenger Protection Act, to increase penalties on those who drive while intoxicated (DWI) with children in the car. The Act would make it a felony for individuals to drive while drunk or under the influence of drugs with passengers under the age of 16. Currently, such an offense is considered no more than a misdemeanor and may be treated as a traffic infraction. In light of the recent fatal accidents involving Diane Schuler on the Taconic State Parkway and Carmen Huertas on the Henry Hudson Parkway where children were essentially captives in vehicles being driven by adults the children knew had something wrong with them, passing the law seems like a no-brainer. As if even necessary, in submitting the proposed legislation, Governor Paterson's press release states: In 2007, there were 9,480 accidents related to driver intoxication in New York and 344 resulted in deaths. Nearly 200 of those killed or injured were under the age of 14." Provisions of the proposed law include the following:
- Incidents of aggravated vehicular homicide in which a passenger under the age of 16 is killed while riding in a vehicle operated by a driver impaired by alcohol or drugs would be considered a Class B violent felony, punishable by 5 to 25 years in state prison;
- Incidents of aggravated vehicular assault in which a passenger under the age of 16 is seriously injured while riding in a vehicle operated by a driver impaired by alcohol or drugs would be considered a Class C violent felony, punishable by 3.5 to 15 years in state prison;
- Individuals who drive while impaired by alcohol and drugs and with a child under the age of 16 would be charged with a Class E felony, punishable by up to 4 years in state prison;
- Individuals charged with driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 or more and with a child under the age of 16 in the vehicle would automatically have their license suspended pending prosecution;
- Individuals convicted of driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs and with a child would automatically lose their license for a year upon the first conviction; and
- Individuals with a prior DWI conviction who, within 10 years of their first conviction, are found guilty for driving while impaired with a child under the age of 16 would automatically lose their license for 18 months.