New DMV Policies Target Repeat Dangerous Drivers — If They’re Drunk

This afternoon, Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Barbara J. Fiala announced new policies to make it tougher for repeat drunk or drugged drivers to get behind the wheel.

Until now, New York did not normally strip lifetime driving privlieges from repeat drunk or drugged drivers. Presently, if a driver is convicted of DWI three times in four years, his license could be suspended for as little as five years, after which he could reapply for a new license. A driver is only likely to have his license revoked if he has DWI convictions from two separate crashes resulting in injury.

Under the new policy, DMV will deny a license if the driver has five or more DWI convictions in a lifetime, or three or more DWI convictions in 25 years, plus another serious driving offense, such as a fatal crash. For those drivers without another serious driving offense, DMV could apply restrictions, such as a mandatory ignition interlock device or limitations on when and where the applicant can drive.

Currently, repeat drunk drivers who have licenses revoked or suspended for up to a year can either wait for the full term of the suspension, or get their licenses back in as little as seven weeks by completing a remedial education program. DMV will now require those drivers to wait until their full suspension or revocation term has ended.

The new policies closely match the goals of Charlotte’s Law, a bill that would set standards for revoking the licenses of repeat drunk and dangerous drivers. In April, Assemblyman James Tedisco, one of the bills co-sponsors, asked Cuomo to administratively implement the bill’s provisions. By June, the bill had stalled in both the Senate and Assembly.

Because the DMV’s new policies apply only to drunk or drugged drivers, instead of all repeat dangerous drivers, they fall short of more comprehensive reform proposed by Charlotte’s Law.

Despite the limitation, Tedisco welcomed today’s announcement, calling it “a good first step” in defining serial dangerous drivers and revoking their licenses. “We are still calling for permanent revocation of serial dangerous drivers who do not face any DWI/DUI offenses,” he said in a statement, “but are just as reckless on the roads.”

AAA New York and Mothers Against Drunk Driving also voiced support for the new policy. “Usually a governor doesn’t order an administrative action like this” for drunk driving regulations, said MADD spokesman Frank Harris.  “This is a first, and MADD does applaud the initiative of the governor,” he said, adding, “Administrative sanctions are a sure and swift punishment.”

However, MADD wants lawmakers to focus more on ignition interlock devices and closing loopholes in Leandra’s Law, which requires the devices for convicted drunk drivers. “Just taking away the license of an offender does not stop them from driving drunk,” Harris said.

Last week’s Mayor’s Management Report revealed that in the last fiscal year, of 291 New York City traffic fatalities, 18 were a result of drunk driving crashes. Although this number is up from 10 in 2011, it continues a longer-term downward trend.

Transportation Alternatives applauded the new policy but asked Cuomo to address the top killer on New York’s streets. “In New York City, speeding kills more people than distracted driving and drunk driving combined,” TA noted. “Governor Cuomo can take his strong record on traffic enforcement to the next step and back the Neighborhood Speeds for Neighborhood Streets Act in the State legislature, authorizing speed cameras for New York City.”

  • Joe R.

    Well, it’s good start. I guess our culture has to first get used to the idea of denying someone the privilege of driving for life. This explains the very limited circumstances under which this law applies. Ultimately, if you’re at fault in any accident involving death or serious injury, you should lose your driving privileges for life. And the same should apply with the first instance of DWI, not the third or the fifth. This might actually change driving culture to one where people actually take pride in continuously improving their driving abilities instead of treating their car like an extension of their living room.

  • Kevin Giant

    I strongly disagree with MADD spokesman Frank Harris.  A driver’s licence is a privilege, not a right.  Suspending it is NOT a punishment. 

  • Ian Turner

    @cc5b77addc70e6c5138d0e6d130eaac9:disqus : There’s no reason why suspension of a privilege can’t be used as a punishment. In fact, suspension of privileges is an extremely common form of punishment in institutional settings.

  • Anonymous

     Unfortunately, suspension of drivers license doesn’t discourage many dangerous drivers.  They continue to drive illegally.  Being caught driving on a suspended license results in a fine and additional suspension time.  The fines are not large enough to act as a serious deterrent, given the offsetting economic loss from not being able to drive.

    This policy is a small step in the right direction, but what we need greater penalties (such as jail time or at least much higher fines) for those who commit serious driving violations.  Maybe those convicted of DUI should have to register and inform their neighbors, like convicted child abusers.

    In the case where there is personal injury, death, or significant property damage due to operation of a motor vehicle, the driver should be treated like the perpetrator of other serious crimes.  Assaulting a person with anything except a car is a serious crime, but assaulting, or even killing, a person with a car is an “accident”.

  • Joe R.

    @J_12:disqus You’re quite right that suspending licenses often doesn’t keep people from driving anyway. That’s why in conjunction with this law I propose confiscating the vehicle of anyone caught driving without a valid license. Auction the vehicle off, use the money to fund help for victims of car crashes. Few people can afford to buy another car every time their car gets confiscated. No car=no driving. Problem solved.

  • Tonyv143

    Does any one know if the new policy is retro active

  • Joe R.

    I’m wondering about that myself. The law should be retroactive as I’m sure that would result in hundreds, if not thousands, of licenses being permanently revoked.

  • Pennytruex

    It is. I was arrested ona .O8 Dwi in MAY 2010, sentensed to  6 mos without,applied and then theygave me ayear,applied again(all before the law was passed) I spent over 600 on Social workers,drug test and application fees. Then they kept my license for ten mos while they waited for the rulling to go throufgh and applied it.In the meanime I was unemployed,had to sell my house of many years. It is my understandingthey can get you on traffic tickets and go back to the record twenty-0five years.

  • Pennytruex

    In my case this is not punishment,,it’s death. Do I deserve to die for potential to commit a crime?Do I deserve to die for a .07  which is not even a charge in most states?I don’t think you people are really appreciating the really devastating effects this wil have on the lives of many people who are reformed ior moderate drinkers. The police are not perfect. They do lie and they do set people up. There are many injustices. These laws are unfair and they will have a bad effect on NY

  • Ian Turner

    @d9b861f01f620dc4d73b64655cfde158:disqus: Don’t you think it’s a bit dramatic to equate loss of driving privileges with loss of life?

  • Tsquaredcubed

    I think the laws on drinking and driving are too tough.

  • Alvin. F

    I WILL SAY IT AGAIN!!

    Thank God those of you who are in favor of this barbaric law are not involved in Politics. “Alcoholism” and “Drug Addiction” are diseases and should be dealt with accordingly, penalizing an “Alcoholic” for the rest of their life is completely absurd. Hey I have a better idea, how about banning Alcohol completely, then anyone caught with an alcoholic beverage can be sentenced to… lets say DEATH. Wouldn’t this be a great solution? It’s a win win. I think this would completely fix many issues in our wonderful society, lets see… for one it would prevent DWI’s, Rape, Assaults, Fighting, Hunting Accidents, Boating Accidents, Shootouts, public intoxication, disorderly conduct shall I continue? (I don’t think so)

    Clearly the punishment does not fit the crime here “LIFE??” Really? Lets screw you for the rest of your poor life, yes I said POOR, at least I know those who were and are poor had no chance to begin with due to the fact that they couldn’t afford a Suitable Legal Defense to have the original DWI’s dropped to a lower non moving violation in the first place. So yes this will affect mainly the poor as well as the poor souls who plead guilty and served their time prior to knowing what our great NYS Governor Cuomo and the Wonderful Barbara J. Fiala had up there sleeves for September 2012. hmm September, this month seems rather familiar to me.

    I think this has gone way to far, mainly because it was decided to make this retroactive and are punishing those who have already served their sentences and punishments that were handed down by the Courts and Fines paid to both the DMV and the Courts. The NYS Department of Motor Vehicles states that driving is a privilege, really? Tell that to Judge next time your in criminal court for a driving privilege violation, maybe you’ll have the privilege in being sent to JAIL.

    Really folks people make mistakes, some more than others but to punish someone for the rest of there life, is completely wrong, addiction recovery is a reality and many recover just fine. People change everyday, I hear Judge Mathis speak of change on his Court Room show regularly. Punishing people twice for the same offence is not what our Great COUNTRY is about. We are the USA and we should stand together during easy times and hard times. People drink for many different reasons, some people go threw really trying times and life changing moments, it’s sad. If I could help our Country and our WORLD I would but I don’t have the means to do so, so it’s up to each and every one of us to do our part as a US Citizen, together we stand together we fall. Next time you see someone fall, stop and help them up. It’s what I’m about, if I can help I will.

    So your maybe thinking if I myself am involved in this DWI Permanent drivers licence denial/revocation fiasco, I’ll leave it to your imagination, but I’ll say this.

    Change can happen, I AM LIVING PROOF. Enjoy!!

    Alvin. F

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