Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that State Police and local law enforcement agencies will be enforcing distracted driving laws, utilizing sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols to deter drunk driving during the holiday season.
As New Yorkers and visitors travel all across the state to visit friends and families for the holidays, we are ramping up enforcement efforts to keep our roads safe during this busy time of the year, Governor Cuomo said. During this crack down, the State Police and local law enforcement will be on high alert, watching our roads and highways to combat distracted and drunk driving to prevent unnecessary tragedy. I urge travelers to drive responsibly so that we can all celebrate this holiday season safely.
Governor Cuomo strengthen the states DWI laws when he announced a multi-pronged initiative in September 2012 to keep drivers with a history of repeat alcohol or drug related driving convictions off the road. These new regulations, including a lifetime record review of all drivers who apply to have a license reinstated after a revocation, gave New York among the toughest protections in the nation against drivers who persistently drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
In addition, Leandras Law sets some of the toughest DWI provisions in the country. First time offenders driving while intoxicated or impaired by drugs with a child less than 16 years old in the vehicle may be charged with a class E felony, punishable by up to four years in prison. Drivers convicted must install and maintain an ignition interlock on any vehicle owned or operated by the driver for a minimum period of six months.
State Police have sobriety checkpoints throughout the state for everyone's safety this holiday season, said State Police Superintendent, Joseph A. D'Amico. We are joining more than 20 thousand police agencies in sending a message that holiday revelers should plan ahead and designate a driver or arrange safe transportation in advance to make sure everyone arrives home safely for the holidays. We will also be out in force looking for distracted drivers. Distracted driving can be as dangerous as driving impaired. The safest way to enjoy the holidays is to not drink and drive, buckle up, put down the phone and drive safe.
To strengthen distracted driving laws in the state, Governor Cuomo signed a law in July 2011 that makes using a handheld electronic device for activities such as texting while driving a primary offense, giving law enforcement the power to stop motorists for engaging in this activity. In 2013, the fines for distracted driving were increased and the number of points that could be placed on a license upon conviction for texting while driving and cell-phone related infractions were increased from three points to five.
In 2012, according to DMV statistics, there were 8,633 alcohol-related crashes in New York State reported by police, resulting in 358 people killed and 6,303 injured. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities increased nationwide by 4.6 percent in 2012, accounting for 31 percent of overall fatalities.