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New York State DMV

State DMV’s New Rules Could Kinda Sorta Make Roadways Safer

Of course, it all depends on enforcement and diligence of our motor vehicle officials and cops.

File photo: Gersh Kuntzman|

Bad driving, more points.

No more total zeroes for total zeroes.

Drunk drivers, unlicensed drivers and people who leave the scene of a crash that injured another person will finally run the risk of losing their driving privileges under new rules quietly introduced last month by state officials.

The Department of Motor Vehicles is moving ahead with a plan to close several egregious loopholes that have helped reckless drivers stay on the road. For example, strange as it may seem, drivers who were convicted of operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs did not get any violation points applied to their records.

Same for drivers who operated vehicles without a license, drove past a stopped school bus or even left the scene of a crash that caused an injury. None of those violations earns a driver points.

"These amendments ... are needed because currently there are no points assigned to alcohol/drugged driving convictions, chemical test refusals, operating while suspended or revoked, or leaving the scene of a personal injury crash, thus there is no authority currently to treat these egregious behaviors and convictions similarly to other convictions which qualify motorists to be deemed problem drivers," the agency said.

Under the new rules, boozed-up or unlicensed drivers will, with one infraction, hit the 11-point limit for triggering a possible license suspension.

And that 11-point threshold will also be easier for all reckless drivers to hit — because instead of rolling back to zero every 18 months, the violation period will expand to 24 months.

"Increasing the time frame from 18 months to 24 months allows the Department to review a longer period of operation for when administrative action can be taken for a persistent violator — and will result in an increase of about 40 percent of drivers being classified as persistent violators," the agency said in a statement accompanying the rule proposal.

The three-point increase on rushing past a stopped school bus is essential because it "shows a disregard for more vulnerable road users – especially children." The state estimates that this "particularly egregious" violation increased by nearly 7 percent from 2021 to 2022, and is projected to increase another 15 percent from 2022 to 2023, though the state agency did not say why.

Other violation points will remain the same (see chart of existing points here).

The overall goal is to "bolster the ability to remove drivers who engage in risky behavior from New York roadways," the agency said.

Let unsaid, however, is how state and local authorities will actually remove the most reckless drivers from the roads. After all, many people are right now driving with suspended or revoked licenses, and even after they are caught doing so, still end up back on the roads.

For example, Tyrik Mott, the driver who hit and killed 3-month-old Apolline Mong-Guillemin on Sept. 11, 2021, was driving with a suspended license at the time of the crash. He had been pulled over by cops months before the crash and was arrested for driving without a license. But a Brooklyn judge let him walk, or, more accurately, drive. And the dozens of camera-issued speeding tickets that Mott racked up didn't contribute to getting him off the road either because camera-issued tickets don't carry points at all. (Just three camera-issued speeding tickets in an 18-month period, which tens of thousands of New York City drivers have accrued, would subject a driver to a license suspension ... if such tickets were eligible for points.)

Still, the proposed rules would make it more difficult for the worst of the worst drivers to get back their driving privileges.

For instance, the rules currently allow DMV to consider a driver's record over the last three years when that driver is applying to get his or her license back. Under the new rules, the DMV will be able to look back four years.

And the new rules would make it easier to permanently revoke the license of recidivist drunk drivers.

Currently, a driver cannot be re-licensed if he has five or more alcohol or drug-related driving convictions in his lifetime or has four such convictions plus another serious driving offense in 25 years. The new rules would lower each threshold by one conviction.

The agency said that the alcohol-related rules are especially crucial because at the current threshold, roughly 10,000 "recidivist drivers" could still get re-licensed. And one in five convicted drinking drivers in New York State is a recidivist, and 44 percent of fatal crashes in New York are alcohol- or drug-related, so do the math.

Or let DMV Commissioner Mark Schroeder do it for you:

“The message is simple: If your actions behind the wheel put others in danger, you don’t belong in the driver’s seat," Schroeder said in a statement. "That’s why we are proposing significant and aggressive actions to protect other drivers, motorcyclists, bicyclists, pedestrians and children. Everyone deserves to feel safe regardless of how they choose to commute or enjoy our roads.”

The rule changes appear to be so non-controversial that even an official with the car-centric AAA supports them.

“You think about the fact that we lose over 40,000 people a year in the United States," Mike Sweeney, AAA Hudson Valley’s traffic safety educator, recently told NY1. "That should be a number that upsets people a lot. And anything we can do to reduce the death toll is a positive.”

The proposed changes are open for comment until Nov. 5. Comments can be submitted via snail mail to John Kenefick, NYS Department of Motor Vehicles, 6 Empire State Plaza, Room 522A, Albany, New York 12228 or via email to dmv.sm.legal@dmv.ny.gov

FROM THE RULE

The objectives of the authority granted above are twofold. The first is to establish a system for the Department to identify driving records which shall be presumptively deemed to constitute habitual and persistent violations of laws related to traffic and take appropriate license sanctions against an operator who poses a highway safety risk to others.

The proposed rule is both necessary and benefi- cial for the enhancement of highway safety in New York State.

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