The New York State Senate today passed legislation to make streets safer by strengthening the enforcement of impaired and intoxicated driving. The bill (S889), sponsored by Senator George Amedore (R-C-I, Rotterdam), allows law enforcement to keep up with the proliferation of designer and synthetic substances that are not regulated, but when consumed, result in significant levels of impairment while driving.
“We continue to see an increase in the use of synthetic drugs that can cause great danger if they are used by someone who then gets behind the wheel of a car,” said Senator Amedore, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. “This bill will help keep our laws up-to-date as more and more of these substances make their way on to the market, and ensure that law enforcement officials have the tools to properly punish individuals who use these dangerous substances and make the decision to drive.”
Under existing law, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of a drug or under the combined influence of alcohol and drugs. However, the current list of prohibited substances does not account for many new synthetic and boutique drugs, such as bath salts, synthetic marijuana, diflouroethane, and many others.
In 2004, Vincent Litto was driving in Brooklyn on a four-lane road with three passengers in his car. Litto picked up a can of “Dust-Off,” a propellant cleaner containing diflouroethane, and sprayed it into his mouth. Within seconds of inhalation, it makes it difficult for a user to perceive and react to their environment. Litto veered into oncoming traffic, killing one of the passengers in the oncoming car and seriously injuring the other driver and two of Litto’s passengers. However, because diflouroethane is not included on the list, Litto could not be prosecuted with vehicular manslaughter and vehicular assault.
This legislation amends the state's Public Health Law to include any mind- and reaction-altering substances that, when consumed, could result in the same intoxicated condition as alcohol or listed drugs. The expanded definition will provide prosecutors with an increased chance of persuading a court that the chemical substance consumed by a driver had the same level of impairment as if the driver had been using alcohol and/ or other listed drugs.
The bill has been sent to the Assembly.