Under bill, wrong-way DWI would be felony

Sen. Charles J. Fuschillo Jr. (R-Merrick) in 2011.

Sen. Charles J. Fuschillo Jr. (R-Merrick) in 2011. (Credit: Albany Times Union, 2011)

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Sen. Charles J. Fuschillo Jr. (R-Merrick) in 2011. $entry.content.alttag Sen. Charles J. Fuschillo Jr. (R-Merrick) in 2011. $entry.content.alttag 6. Round Swamp Road and Northern State Parkway. Seven spots where LIers see dangers
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ALBANY -- Driving the wrong way on a public highway while drunk or impaired would be a felony under a bill that unanimously passed the Senate Monday. The legislation would create a new crime called aggravated reckless driving, a class E felony punishable by up to four years in prison.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Charles Fuschillo, Jr. (R-Merrick), said there were more than 20 "wrong-way tragedies" on the Island last year.

"It has to stop," he said. The legislation is intended as a deterrent and to "punish those that put lives at risk," he said.

The law would apply to drivers who knowingly drive against the flow of traffic, either by choice or because they're intoxicated. It would also apply to drivers going more than 30 mph over the speed limit while drunk or impaired, while racing or while weaving in and out of traffic. It would also define the lesser offense of reckless driving as a class A misdemeanor.

According to Fuschillo, there have been at least 27 wrong-way driving crashes and arrests on Long Island since off-duty NYPD Officer Andre Menzies was killed on Nov. 15, 2010, by a suspected drunken driver going the wrong way on the Northern State Parkway.

The bill, drafted in consultation with Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice, passed the Senate last year but died in the Assembly. Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) said he would do everything he could to get the legislation passed.

"This behavior is a death threat," Weisenberg said.

Michael Whyland, spokesman for the Assembly Majority Democrats, said that with the bill having been first introduced last year, lawmakers needed to make sure they fully understood its implications.

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