Victims, Electeds: Time for Action Against Driving While Unlicensed


Spurred by the recent hit-and-run deaths of three pedestrians, Transportation Alternatives led a protest on Sunday calling for new measures to keep unlicensed drivers from getting behind the wheel. On the steps of City Hall, advocates were joined by David Sheppard, fiance of Sonya Powell, and City Council Member Larry Seabrook.

According to the DMV, 10 percent of all crashes in New York are caused by unlicensed drivers; TA says 75 percent of motorists with suspended licenses continue to drive. To curb the carnage, and hold illegal drivers accountable, TA has proposed the following:

  • Getting unlicensed drivers off New York State roadways by impounding the vehicle of anyone caught driving with a suspended license.
  • The passage of Assembly Bill 5124, introduced by Assembly Member Joe Lentol, which would subject any driver who has committed two or more dangerous moving violations within the 18 months before a fatal or injurious crash to a felony charge.

Yesterday’s event got a thorough treatment on NY1. It would be a huge momentum-builder if Mayor Bloomberg or Public Advocate-elect Bill de Blasio were to add their voices to the chorus against DWU before the death toll rises again.

  • ?

    This may well be true, but how do they know this? “TA says 75 percent of motorists with suspended licenses continue to drive”

  • I don’t understand why we need to come up with novel ways to deal with this – impounding cars and elevating charges to felonies. It’s quite simple, really. Attach significant mandatory jail time to driving with a suspended license. That’s what’s they do here in Virginia, and while it doesn’t keep all suspended drivers off the roads, it’s a pretty strong disincentive, and would put a pretty good dent in the revolving door you guys have up there.

  • eliot

    At the very least, tow their cars.

    The Staten Island killer was repeatedly found to be a menace — yet each time, he was given a slap on the wrist and allowed to drive home.

    It’s like finding out that the Columbine killers had been caught bringing guns to school 29 times.

    If someone is a menace, take their damned weapon away. Otherwise you’re granting them license to kill.

  • Here’s a sample of a letter you can send to your state Assemblymember:

    Dear Assemblymember Powell:

    This letter concerns Assembly Bill 5124, which aims to reclassify as felonies harmful crashes by drivers with a recent history of recklessness, including those whose licenses have been suspended.

    Research has shown that drivers with suspended or otherwise invalid licenses are nearly four times as likely to be involved in traffic crashes as those with valid licenses. And 75% of drivers with suspended licenses continue to drive. Clearly, license suspension is not an effective disincentive that can keep these proven dangerous drivers from continued reckless driving. As you are no doubt aware, two drivers with suspended licenses killed three New Yorkers in the last two weeks alone — Sonya Powell, and Peter and Lillian Sabados.

    Significantly, in both of these recent, deadly crashes involving unlicensed drivers, the drivers left the scene. For obvious reasons, and as confirmed by research, unlicensed drivers are 50 or more times more likely to hit-and-run than licensed drivers involved in crashes. This unique risk to public safety posed by unlicensed drivers is a very compelling reason to reclassify harmful crashes by unlicensed drivers as felonies.

    Please let me know if you will support A.5124 or similar legislation to impose the increased penalties for harmful, unlicensed drivers that are so desperately needed.

  • Ethan L.

    “According to the DMV, 10 percent of all crashes in New York are caused by unlicensed drivers”

    So according to the DMV, 90% of all crashes are caused by licensed drivers. Sounds to me like we need to get rid of driver licensing, it just increases the accident rates!

    But seriously, license suspension is used as punishment for all sorts of offenses, not just driving offenses. In many cases, people cannot survive without driving, so they continue to do so as law breakers, with predictable results such as fleeing any situation that could get them arrested for simply exercising their right to travel. Licensing is an infringement on our rights, and should be abolished.

  • Anonymous

    @ethanl:disqus Please tell us more about the “right to travel”–by which you mean the right to operate, without any restriction, machinery that kills and injures tens of thousands of people per year on public roads.

    Better: launch your whole Libertarian defense of privatizing roads along with this. It’d be fun. Please, please, please, do it.


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