Senate Bill by Gounardes Would Seize Licenses from Reckless Drivers

State Senator Andrew Gounardes has a bill that would get reckless drivers off the road. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
State Senator Andrew Gounardes has a bill that would get reckless drivers off the road. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Mayor de Blasio has come out in favor of a State Senate bill that would seize the licenses of drivers who get three moving violations in any 12-month period — though the mayor opposes a similar measure that has been proposed in the City Council.

The Albany bill was introduced quietly by State Senator Andrew Gounardes (D-Bay Ridge) last month and has not received much attention until Friday, when the mayor said such a bill would work well in conjunction with the coming increase in school-zone speed enforcement cameras.

Mayor de Blasio supports State Senator Andrew Gounardes's effort to rein in reckless drivers. Photo: Mayor's office
Mayor de Blasio supports State Senator Andrew Gounardes’s effort to rein in reckless drivers. Photo: Mayor’s office

“We need Albany to pass another law to increase the fines for multiple violators,” de Blasio said at the speed camera press conference on Friday. He did not mention Gounardes’s bill specifically, but had mentioned the senator’s efforts earlier. “We need folks who consistently break the law, and consistently speed, to face higher penalties. And for the worst offenders, we need to see their licenses suspended once and for all.”

The Gounardes bill, S5203, is short but sweet, consisting of a single paragraph:  It would suspend the “driving privileges entirely for at least one year” of anyone convicted of three moving violations within a 12-month period. The bill outlines the violations as “disobeying [a] traffic control signal, speeding more than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit, participating in a race or unauthorized speed contest, overtaking a school bus, reckless driving, failure to yield to a pedestrian, and operating a motor vehicle while using a cell phone or operating a motor vehicle while using a portable electronic device.”

“It’s a real easy concept: three strikes and you’re out,” Gounardes told Streetsblog.

It is unclear how many New York State drivers would lose their licenses under such a bill. The state Department of Motor Vehicles could not immediately come up with a figure. But  New York City police officers wrote more than 700,000 moving violations in 2018 in just the five boroughs — an indication that many drivers are exceptionally reckless.

 

The Gounardes bill would complement a City Council bill by Brad Lander of Park Slope that would allow authorities to seize cars that have been caught on camera speeding or running red lights five or more times in a 12-month period, with the car being returned only after the driver passed a driving-safety course. That bill is currently stalled because it may require some state approval. Also, it is opposed by Mayor de Blasio.

The Gounardes bill would apply only to summonses issued by police officers — so that drivers could not fight their suspensions on the grounds that they were not driving at the time the car was caught doing something dangerous. It appears that the ability of drivers to make such an excuse is one of the sticking points that the de Blasio administration has with the Lander bill.

Gounardes said state lawmakers could possibly help pave the way in a separate bill.

“This bill specifies the driver, who will be known because the police officer will issue the summons,” he said. “But we can think about other things we can do to strengthen the automated enforcement. If you get a certain number of tickets, say, you could lose your registration.

“My bill is just one remedy,” Gounardes added. “We need to come up with a robust toolkit to go after the worst offenders.”

Gounardes said he was unsure if the bill could be passed by the end of the legislative session in June, but was hopeful that the mayor’s support would help.

“I’m certainly going to make the strongest case I can,” said the senator, who replaced street safety opponent Marty Golden in January, and has had a string of legislative victories. “Hopefully what the mayor said helps.”

 

  • HamTech87

    This would apply statewide, right?

  • JarekFA

    de Blasio’s opposition to Ladner’s bill is freaking stupid. As if it’s unfair to take a car off the street that has been used in an unsafe manner within a certain period of time. Who cares if the registered owner was at fault or not. If you lend your car to someone and they’re reckless with it then such car should be given a time-out. Those speed cameras only kick in at 11mph+ over the speed limit, so we’re talking 36 mph outside a school.

  • Joe R.

    …operating a motor vehicle while using a cell phone…

    Can NYS get the phone records of every driver to enforce this? It should be relatively easy to determine if a call was made in a moving vehicle. The only questions after that would be whether or not the moving vehicle was a bus or train or car. If the former two, you get a free pass. If the latter, then you need some way to determine if the person was also driving.

    I would love a foolproof way to enforce this clause every single time someone uses their phone while driving. My guess is nobody in NYC would have a valid license after a few weeks.

    I also have a few suggestions for complementary laws to go along with these excellent proposals:

    1) If you’re caught driving without a license, you lose driving privileges for life and you forfeit the vehicle you’re driving.
    2) If you kill or seriously injure people in a collision, and it’s shown that you’re at fault, you lose driving privileges for life and you forfeit the vehicle (or what’s left of it) you were driving during the collision.
    3) Drivers must be retested every 5 years starting at age 50, then annually starting at age 65.

  • William Lawson

    The trouble with this idea is that, while commendable, it fails to acknowledge that unlicensed driving is also a huge problem in the city. A significant proportion of killer drivers turn out to be unlicensed, even among “professionals” like dump truck drivers. The reason why so many people are comfortable driving around without a license is that they know NYPD traffic enforcement is a joke. You have a real chance of getting away with not having a license. So it’s worth pointing out that taking away someone’s license in this city is no guarantee whatsoever that they’ll stop driving.

    No, I’ve always said that what’s needed to regain control of the Wild West of NYC roads is to start handing out hefty jail sentences to the selfish assholes who refuse to respect human life. It’s a deterrent and it also guarantees to get them off the road. We need stronger laws and politicians who aren’t too spineless to order the NYPD around.

  • walks bikes drives

    This is not based on cell phone records. This is based on a police officer witnessing the use of the cell phone. You cant base it on cell phone records alone.

  • City Hall watcher

    What’s happening here is quite simple. The mayor backs Gounardes’ bill because it would put the onus on NYS to administer and enforce. That keeps it at a distance from him personally. He’s against Lander’s bill because it would require enforcement at the city level and result in lord know how many NYPD officers’ personal cars being booted. He is terrified of the police and doesn’t want to be seen as responsible for penalizing them in any way, even if doing so would result in fewer people (even children!) getting killed by reckless drivers.

    He’s a coward. That is all.

  • MatthewEH

    Is the law written to be specific to traffic infractions while driving?

    The cynical side of me guesses it’d trigger driving suspensions for cyclists who fall victim to the “follow you through 3 red lights *then* pull you over” NYPD special.

  • TheFrequentPoster

    Gersh, what about your PTSD from firing that AR-15?

  • 6SJ7

    Who cares if the registered owner was at fault or not.

    The city will care once the court challenges pile up.

  • NYrByChoice

    Your proposal would be more effective than the “one size fits all” speed limits, that are only designed to make reveneue for the city.

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