In November 2009, Governor Paterson signed the Child Passenger Protection Act, also known as Leandra’s Law. The law is named after Leandra Rosada who was eleven years old when she was killed while in a vehicle operated by a friend’s drunken mother. According to New York Defensive Driving Now, the law includes provisions that:
- Make it a felony to drive under the influence while a child under the age of 16 is in the vehicle
- Require law enforcement officers to note when a child or person other than the offender has been killed or suffered serious physical injury; or when a child of fifteen years or under is present in the vehicle at the time of the arrest
- Require law enforcement officers to report the offense to the Department of Social Services when a child is present in the vehicle of an impaired driver who is their parent, legal guardian, or custodian
- Prohibit a plea bargain reducing the charge to a non-criminal offense for anyone charged with aggravated driving while intoxicated with a child
So far 248 drivers have been arrested under the new provisions. Additionally, as of August 15th 2010, the law also mandates:
- The installation of an interlock device in vehicles after the first conviction for driving under the influence and makes tampering with an interlock a criminal offense.
The interlock device would check the blood alcohol content of the driver which must be below 0.045 percent level before the car will start. The offender would also have to pay $100 for the installation of the interlock and a $3 per day maintenance and monitoring fee with at the least a six month time span. However, it has not been decided who will pay the fees for defendants who cannot afford it.
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer is also pushing the Research of Alcohol Detection Systems for Stopping Alcohol-related Fatalities Everywhere (ROAD SAFE) Act. This legislation would allow $12 million from the already appropriated fund for road safety initiatives to be used for research of technologies that are less expensive and more efficient. The partnership with anti-drunk advocates, large companies and the federal government could produce such innovations as steering wheels or engine start buttons that detect blood alcohol levels as well as sensors that monitor a driver’s breath or eye movement.
The Child Passenger Protection Act also increases penalties when the offense injures or kills a passenger under the age of 16:
- Vehicular Assault in the Second Degree –> Vehicular Assault in the First Degree
- Vehicular Assault in the Second Degree –> Aggravated Vehicular Assault
- Vehicular Manslaughter in the Second Degree –> Vehicular Manslaughter in the First Degree
- Vehicular Manslaughter –> Aggravated Vehicular Manslaughter
CNN noted that New York joins thirty-five other states that have child endangerment laws regarding drinking and driving and twelve other states that require mandatory interlock ignitions. The new statute sets some of the toughest DWI penalties in the nation and Lenny Rosado, Leandra’s father, is currently on the mission to make it a nationwide law.
*Written with assistance from Merika Wilson