BY Kenneth Lovett
DAILY NEWS ALBANY BUREAU CHIEF
Monday, July 12th 2010, 4:00 AM
ALBANY - Leandra's Law is working.
A startling number of drivers - 248 - have been busted under the new law that makes it a felony to drive drunk in New York with a child younger than 16 in the car.
Leandra Law arrests have been reported in 48 of the state's 62 counties in the first six months after the law took hold Dec. 18, 2009, according to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.
That includes six New York City arrests for driving drunk with kids in the car.
The father of 11-year-old Leandra Rosado, whose tragic death on the Henry Hudson Parkway spawned the new legislation, called the large number of arrests shocking - and reassuring.
"You're kidding me?" asked Lenny Rosado, of Chelsea, about the 248 arrests. "It's crazy."
Rosado said enforcement of Leandra's Law, which passed with the help of a campaign by the Daily News, "sends a message that this law is real."
"It's happening and we're going to at least catch these people before any more children are killed or any more lives are taken," Rosado said.
Leandra was one of seven girls crammed into a Mercury Sable Oct. 11, 2009, driven by Carmen Huertas, who was ferrying them to a slumber party at her Bronx home. Huertas, 33, turned down a manslaughter plea deal this month.
Cops in Suffolk County have recorded the most Leandra's Law arrests statewide - 33.
Erie County, which includes Buffalo, had the second highest tally with 23 arrests before June 14, 2010, according to the Division of Criminal Justice Services.
Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita said cops have booked even more drunks driving kids since then, bringing Erie County's arrests to 32.
"I'm surprised at the number, and I'm surprised at the recklessness of these parents, particularly after all the publicity [the law] received," Sedita said.
Cops made the first Leandra's Law arrest in Erie County on Christmas Night. A woman driving four kids was pulled over by police in suburban Buffalo. She told cops she was driving from Utica to Rochester - meaning she had overshot her exit by 40 miles.
The woman, who has since pleaded guilty to the felony charge, had a blood-alcohol content level of 0.19, more than twice the legal limit.
State Sen. Charles Fuschillo said he's not surprised by the numbers.
"It's just more justification that the law was needed," said Fuschillo (R-L.I.), who sponsored the bill in the Senate.
Leandra's Law is set to be expanded on Aug. 15 when anyone convicted of misdemeanor or felony drunken driving - not only those with kids in their vehicles - will be forced to install a device that checks blood-alcohol content before the car will start.