Governor David A. Paterson today announced that the State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) will receive a one-time, $3 million award from the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) to provide grants to counties to assist with the monitoring and oversight of persons required to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles as a provision under the State's Child Passenger Protection Act, known as Leandra's Law. The funds will be dispersed by DCJS to counties statewide pending final approval by the Office of the New York State Comptroller.
"Enacting the mandatory interlock device provision under Leandra's Law sent the message that drinking and driving, especially with children in the vehicle will not be tolerated," Governor Paterson said. "Requiring ignition interlocks – coupled with vigilant monitoring of those drivers required to have them – will force sobriety, making our roads safer and saving lives. The counties perform the important role of monitoring these individuals and I am pleased that they will be receiving these funds to aid them in their efforts."
The law, named for 11-year-old Leandra Rosado who was killed last year in a drunk driving crash, was introduced as Governor's Program Bill No. 204 by Governor Paterson, and signed into law by him in December 2009. It makes it a felony for individuals to drive while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs with children under the age of 16 in the vehicle. Previously, this was considered a misdemeanor offense and could be treated as a traffic violation. Additionally, the law also requires all drivers convicted of misdemeanor and felony drunk driving charges-even first-time offenders and regardless of whether a child under the age of 16 was in the vehicle at the time-to install and maintain ignition interlock devices at their own expense on any vehicles they own or operate for a minimum of six months.
Commissioner David J. Swarts of the Department of Motor Vehicles said: "Mandatory ignition interlock devices are another important step in protecting all those that share our roadways. As Chair of the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee, I commend Governor Paterson for his dedication to this issue, and I am pleased that this award will assist the Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives and the counties working with them to make our roadways safer."
DCJS Deputy Commissioner Robert Maccarone, who serves as Director of the Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives, said: "This grant of $3 million in federal highway safety funds, provided through the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee, will greatly assist localities in implementing the important monitoring responsibilities of persons convicted of DWI and sentenced under Leandra's Law. Thanks to Governor Paterson, these funds will allow us to support the important work of our partners in probation and law enforcement in local governments throughout New York State."
Each county will assign a monitoring entity that will oversee the installation of the ignition interlock device and compliance with its use. The award money will be dispersed based on each county's impaired driving convictions.
Approximately 2,000 drivers in New York State currently have court-ordered ignition interlock devices. Under this provision of Leandra's Law, it is estimated that 25,000 drivers statewide will be required to install and maintain ignition interlocks at their own expense annually. An interlock device costs between $75 and $100 to install, coupled with a monthly fee ranging from $70 to $100.
Laura Dean-Mooney, National President of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said: "Drunk driving takes an unimaginable and unthinkable toll on victims of this preventable, violent crime. There were more than 300 New Yorkers killed in drunk driving crashes in 2009 costing the State and residents billions of dollars. The full implementation of Leandra's Law will help reverse the New York subsidy of drunk driving which at its current rate carries too heavy of a burden."
New York and 36 other states have special child endangerment laws that impose tougher sanctions against individuals who place a child passenger at risk while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The State is also one of 10 states with mandatory, first-offender ignition interlock laws.
There have been 445 arrests for aggravated driving while intoxicated with a child under 16 reported to DCJS from December 18, 2009 - the effective date of the law - through August 30, 2010. Arrests have been reported in 56 of the State's 62 counties.
For more information, please visit: www.safeny.ny.gov.