State Senator Hugh T. Farley (R, C, I - Schenectady) announced the New York State Senate passed legislation to create felony charges for wrong-way and other reckless drivers. The bill (S752) is in response to the significant number of recent vehicle crashes – often fatal - that involve individuals who knowingly or under the influence of alcohol or drugs drove the wrong way on highways and other roads.
At least 33 wrong-way driving crashes and arrests occurred on Long Island alone since November 15, 2010, when off-duty NYPD Officer Andre Menzies was killed by a drunk driver who drove the wrong-way on the Northern State Parkway. A recent crash in Greene County on the New York State Thruway on February 22, 2013, caused by a wrong-way driver resulted in that driver and a passenger in an oncoming vehicle being killed, and the other driver and four-month-old infant suffering injuries.
The bill would establish a new crime of aggravated reckless driving and makes it a class E felony, punishable by a prison sentence of up to four years. The crime would apply to:
· Drivers who drive the wrong way, against the flow of traffic, either knowingly or because they are intoxicated;
· Drivers who drive more than 30 miles-an-hour over the speed limit while intoxicated or impaired; or
· Drivers who drive more than 30 miles-an-hour over the speed limit while racing, pursuing other vehicles, or excessively weaving in and out of traffic.
In addition, the legislation would raise the penalty for reckless driving to a class A misdemeanor, punishable by a prison sentence of up to one year. Reckless driving is currently an unclassified misdemeanor and carries a maximum prison sentence of up to 30 days.
The bill has been sent to the Assembly.