New York lays down Leandra's law against drunk drivers

By Ryan Hurlbert on January 12th, 2011

Whether your state calls it DWI, DUI, or DUII, drunk driving is dangerous not only for the driver but also for passengers, other drivers, pedestrians, and property. And driving drunk with a child in the car, who has no choice but to be there, should be treated as a serious crime.

Leandra's Law

New York evidently felt this way in December 2009 when the state passed Leandra's Law, which made it a felony to drive under the influence with a child under 15 years old in the car. The law was named after 11-year-old Leandra Rosado, who was killed in October 2009 while riding in a car driven by Carmen Huertas, who was driving drunk and flipped the car.

The second phase of Leandra's Law went into effect in August 2010, requiring newly convicted drunk drivers to have a breathalyzer interlock installed on their car

Blow and go

A breathalyzer interlock requires the driver to blow into a machine that logs the date, time and estimated blood alcohol content (BAC) of the user. If the BAC exceeds a certain level, the device prevents the car from starting. Periodic retesting en-route keeps drivers from having a sober friend start the car, or starting the car before drinking and letting it idle while they drink. It can't shut off the car once it is started, but it will log the infraction so authorities can take appropriate action.

Many states allow judges to order the device to be installed on the vehicle of a convicted DUI offender, but now in New York it is mandatory, and starts with the first conviction.

"This is another measure to stop an epidemic in New York State - to stop drunk driving," said state Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-L.I.), a sponsor of the law. "It takes away judicial discretion, and it requires a mandatory interlock."

Can you get car insurance with a DUI?

A DUI conviction affects your driving and your car insurance rates in a big way. In most states, your license will be suspended for at least 30 days. To get it reinstated, you will likely need to file an SR-22 Proof of Financial Responsibility. Many primary market insurance carriers won't deal with SR-22 forms, so you may find yourself with a cancelled policy and shopping in the secondary market for coverage. Because secondary market customers are typically considered to be high risk, your premiums will go up -- way up. If you don't provide an SR-22, your driver's license may be revoked. SR-22 forms are generally required for three years after your reinstatement date. That's a long time to pay for one bad decision.

More than ever, prosecutors are filing criminal charges against the driver when someone is injured or killed in an alcohol-related crash. Victims and their families are seeking damages through litigation. The message from law makers, law enforcement, and the public at large is crystal clear: Drunk driving is bad, and you will be made to pay if you are caught.

The bottom line

If you drink, don't even think about driving drunk. Hand your keys to the bartender or a friend. Call a cab and get your car in the morning. You'll keep your cheaper car insurance, but most importantly, you'll keep the road safer for everyone.

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