New York stiffens penalties for drunk driving

New law makes driving drunk with kids a felony, requires ignition interlocks

In an effort to cut down on deadly accidents and lower auto insurance premiums, New York State this week made stricter the penalties for driving while intoxicated.

The law passed in Albany is called Leandra's Law, in honor of an 11-year-old who was killed last month in a DWI accident. "Too often," said New York governor David Paterson, "drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs chose to compromise not only their own lives, but also the lives of our children."

Officially known as the Child Passenger Protection Act, the law makes it a felony to drive while intoxicated with a child in the car. Previously, it had been a misdemeanor. In addition, all drivers guilty of misdemeanor or felony DWI charges will have an ignition interlock device installed in their car for at least six months.

Denise E. O'Donnell, commissioner of the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, noted that states requiring interlock devices have 35 percent fewer DWI offenses. The legislation, she added, will "prevent ... senseless deaths."

New York residents may enjoy lower accident rates and auto insurance costs, too.

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Posted: November 20, 2009

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