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Daniel Squadron

Albany to Drunk Drivers: We’ll Go Easy on You

12:16 PM EST on February 25, 2010

While traffic safety proponents and law enforcers are pushing for measures to clamp down on unlicensed driving, some state legislators want to keep accused drunk drivers on the road.

As reported by On Transport, Senate Bill 3627 and its companion Assembly bill would change existing law that regulates the period between a DWI charge and the processing of a provisional license application by the DMV. Provisional licenses are already available to alleged drunk drivers in cases of "extreme hardship" related to employment, medical appointments and education. The new bill would create a "hardship privilege" that would "allow operation of a noncommercial vehicle in the course of employment for the interim period before a conditional license application can be entertained." The Senate version cleared the transportation committee earlier this month by a party-line vote of 10 to 6, all Republicans against, all Democrats in favor.

"S3627 further softens the penalties for drunk drivers and sends the wrong message," says Kyle Wiswall of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. "One reason efforts to reduce DWIs were so successful is the appropriately stiff penalties and potential risk for the driver, including consequences like losing your license by immediate suspension. Backtracking like this is playing with fire."

When asked by Streetsblog if S3627 is as bad as it looks, Bronx vehicular crimes chief Joseph McCormack responded bluntly: "Yes it is."

Surprisingly, S3627 was helped along with a vote from Brooklyn Senator Dan Squadron, co-sponsor and vocal proponent of "Hayley and Diego's Law," which would establish a new careless driving offense for cases where prosecutors can't or won't pursue more serious charges against drivers who injure or kill. That bill would also define pedestrians, cyclists, road workers and others as "vulnerable users" of public thoroughfares.

Without really trying we can think of two New Yorkers who would be alive today were it not for an unlicensed or allegedly drunk driver who was behind the wheel (albeit of a commercial vehicle) while on the job. We have a message in with Squadron's office regarding his support for the drunk driving loophole.

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