State lawmakers eye mandate for driver’s license suspensions

John Whittaker

Originally published in The Observer

State Senate legislation introduced in April would mandate a person’s driver’s license be suspended if a driver commits three dangerous driving offenses within 12 months. The suspension would last a year. Offenses that would mandate a suspension are disobeying a traffic control device, speeding more than 10 miles an hour over the speed limit, participating in a race or unauthorized speed contest, overtaking a school bus, reckless driving, failure to yield to a pedestrian and operating a motor vehicle while using a cell phone or portable electronic device. A recent Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research survey found that 38% of respondents said they “always” or “most of the time” drive more than 5 miles over the speed limit while 50% report they send or receive text messages while driving. Another 61% said they talk on a cell phone while driving. Meanwhile, according to the state TSSR, 2.4% of all tickets written statewide were for using a cell phone while driving, 7.6% were written for disobeying a traffic device, 18.6% were written for speeding, 3.1% were for texting. The legislation is sponsored by Sen. Andrew Gounardes, D-Brooklyn. Gounardes wrote in his legislative justification for the bill that while there are fines, jail sentences, driver’s license suspensions and revocations, there is not a legislative standard that mandates a revocation for repeat violators of the state’s vehicle and traffic law.

“The prevalence of hazardous driving in New York City is unacceptable and the legislature must do more to keep dangerous, repeat offenders of moving violations off of the road and away from the steering wheel,” Gounardes wrote. “The families and the children of New York should not have to be fearful of walking to school. School bus drivers should not have to be fearful of dropping off children. Pedestrians should not have to be fearful of walking around in their neighborhoods. And, without legislative action to further deter these dangerous drivers — districts like mine will continue to suffer.”