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Cuomo’s push for stricter laws supported by local law enforcement

January 23, 2014
By A.J. Rao - , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

It's a foregone conclusion that texting or drinking while driving are bad combinations.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in his State of the State address on Jan. 8, said just as much, recommending harsher punishments for these two seemingly ubiquitous driving hazards, including a full revocation of one's license after three "strikes" of drinking while driving.

"47,000 drivers with three or more drunk driving convictions are still on the road," Cuomo said. "Think about that as you drive home tonight. It's absurd. Let's change the law: anyone convicted of drunk driving two times in three years should lose their license for five years, and three strikes and you're out and you are off the road, period."

The new proposal was met favorably by local police.

"I definitely support it," said Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph Gerace. "Drunk driving is one of our most frequent problems. The (current law) does need to be tougher."

Chautauqua County sheriff

John Bentley, chief of police of the Lakewood-Busti Police Department, agreed.

"(This proposal) can't hurt," he said. "It was a long, slow process to get the minimum (blood alcohol content) of .15 percent down to .08 percent. I think (the governor's proposal) is good."

Cuomo was similarly emphatic about the dangers of texting while driving.

"For teen drivers, texting while driving creates more fatal accidents than drinking while driving, believe it or not," Cuomo said. "If a teenager is caught texting while driving, they should lose their license for one year. Let them learn this lesson."

Currently, teens caught texting and driving get a six-month suspension of their license.

Gerace, who described the slew of texting drivers as an "epidemic," said he was keenly aware of their threat to other drivers, again supporting the governor's proposal to increase the punishment.

"I've never seen so many cars go off the shoulder of the road or cross the center line for no apparent reason as I have in the last couple years ... a lot of it is due to texting," Gerace said.

Bentley, while acknowledging that texting and driving needed to be properly enforced, admitted that the one-year suspension was a bit too harsh for first-time offenders.

"It's a pretty stiff thing to do," said Bentley, indicating that other distractions like reading and eating are generally more prevalent. "If good enforcement is there, I think the number of distracted drivers will slowly go down."

Bentley added that the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee will likely provide a grant and begin an ensuing campaign - akin to Buckle Up New York - that will lead to additional enforcement and education of distracted drivers.



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