There is a pressing need in New York for a law that makes the penalty for fleeing serious accidents just as harsh as the penalty for causing such accidents while impaired. As it stands, the disparity in penalties is so large that it encourages fleeing, which can mean delays in medical treatment for victims because accidents are not reported quickly.
But a bill approved by the Senate and Assembly and under review by Gov. Andrew Cuomo does so little to fix the problem that, unless it cabn be significantly amended, it ought to be vetoed.
Currently, drivers impaired by drugs or alcohol who leave the scene of a fatal crash and thus avoid the medical tests that would prove their intoxication face felony convictions for fleeing that could net them up to seven years in prison.
The pending bill creates a new felony that ups that maximum penalty to 15 years, the same term faced by by a driver who stays at the scene and is convicted of drunken driving.
But prosecutors say the proposed law is so full of loopholes that it’s essentially useless, and they’re right. It would only apply when more than one victim is killed or seriously injured, and even then only if the deaths or injuries were caused by reckless driving, as defined by law, and even then only if the driver who fled had a suspended or invalid license because of a previous DWI conviction or a previous conviction for fleeing a similar accident or a DWI conviction in the past 10 years.
That doesn’t make any sense.