Senator Golden: State Assembly Inaction Allows Dangerous Drivers To Rule Our Roads

Martin J. Golden

April 28, 2005

Brooklyn- State Senator Marty Golden (R-C-I, Brooklyn) today is calling on the New York State Assembly to follow the State Senate and pass legislation which would establish stronger laws to punish aggressive drivers and would eliminate the negligence clause which prevents the prosecution of many of New York State’s dangerous drivers.

Senator Golden is responding to a report highlighting the problems associated with the "The Rule of Two" which makes mere recklessness not enough to charge a driver with homicide, and which requires prosecutors to prove that a driver consciously disregarded the rules of the road and knowingly created a grave risk to others in addition to leaving the scene of an accident, driving while intoxicated, or in some other means of vehicular manslaughter.

Senator Golden stated, "The New York State Senate last week approved legislation, sponsored by Senator Trunzo, to curb aggressive driving and to stem the problem of speeding by unlicensed motorists. My colleagues and I in the Senate courageously have sought to establish the crime of aggravated aggressive driving, making it a crime in and of itself. The State Assembly must stand up for all New Yorkers and approve this legislation which will make the punishment of these horrific crimes more appropriate."

This offense is defined as aggressive driving resulting in either serious physical injury or death to another person, or property damage in excess of $1,500. Aggravated aggressive driving would be classified as a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $800-$1,500, a term of imprisonment of up to one year or both, and suspension of driving privileges for one year.

Changes would also include eliminating the element of criminal negligence from the crime of Vehicular Assault in the Second Degree when a driver is intoxicated or his or her ability is impaired by alcohol and drugs, or which causes serious physical injury to another person.

Aggressive driving has emerged as a leading traffic safety concern both nationally and in New York State. According to New York State statistics, aggressive driving behaviors -- unsafe lane changes, tailgating, failure to yield the right-of-way, disregard of traffic lights, etc. -- are a contributing factor in 59% of all crashes and 60% of fatal crashes where a cause is attributed.

Similarly, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has reported that one-third of all motor vehicle crashes and two-thirds of fatalities in the country are attributable to aggressive driving behaviors. In fact, five states (Nevada, Arizona, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Delaware) have already adopted special aggressive driving laws in response to this finding.

Senator Golden continued, "New York State must become the sixth state to enact these reforms. How many more lives have to be lost and how many more tragedies have to take place before the Assembly leadership decides to get tough on the reckless and heartless drivers?" said State Senator Marty Golden. "Time and again the Assembly leadership ignores the will of New Yorkers by refusing to act on this sensible, life-saving reform. We owe it to New York's families to do everything possible to ensure their safety."

Senator Golden also highlighted legislation passed last week by the State Senate which would strengthen existing penalties to punish motorists who injure or kill people as a result of dangerous and unlawful driving. The bill would create a new class D felony for Vehicular Manslaughter in the Third Degree.

This crime is committed when a driver kills another person and: knows his or her license is suspended; or is acting in violation of certain traffic laws, and has two or more traffic violations in the last 18 months; or is impaired by the use of alcohol. In addition, the bill would raise Vehicular Manslaughter in the Second Degree from a Class D to a Class C felony. It also provides that a person may be charged with this crime if death occurs as a result of driving while intoxicated.

Golden concluded, "I encourage the Assembly to look and to read the stories of the lives cut short and of the families torn apart. Are you yet convinced that the current regulations are not working, and that there is a need for this tougher laws?"