Families and prosecutors push for passage of Deadly Driving Bill

Families, prosecutors push for Deadly Driving Bill’s passage

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Those who’ve lost everything at the hands of impaired drivers are asking the state Legislature to toughen up New York’s laws. Families of people who’ve been killed in drunk and drugged driving crashes and the prosecutors trying to offer some sense of justice, are asking state lawmakers to pass what’s known as the Deadly Driving Bill.

Henry Rivera Jr. was the very best thing that ever happened to his parents. “He was a student at Eastridge High School, getting ready to graduate in 2007,” recalls his dad, Henry Rivera Sr. 

But a month before that graduation, Rivera Jr. and his best friend Pedro Hernandez were killed in a head-on collision by a driver who was high on cocaine, traveling the wrong way on 590.  t was the third time that man had been arrested for driving under the influence.

“The only reason he was taken off the road this time is because he took two lives, he took my beloved son’s life and his good friend Pedro’s life,” says Rivera Sr. 

The driver spent eight years behind bars. Since that time, the Rivera family has worked with others who’ve lost loved ones to strengthen drunk and drugged driving laws.  Their focus this year is to get the Deadly Driving Bill passed.

Right now, at the time of arrest, an officer has to know what a driver is impaired by. “The law requires us to identify a particular drug that’s in the public health law,” explains Ray Benitez, the Chief of the Vehicular Crimes Bureau at the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office. But, with the explosion of synthetic and mixed street drugs and the endless pharmaceutical options, this bill would re-title drugged driving to apply to all impairing substances. 

The bill would also equate a drug recognition evaluation to a breath or blood test if the driver refuses and expand the court’s ability to order a blood draw of someone suspected of driving under the influence.  “You’re going to have an uptick in arrests because all those individuals who before could refuse without any sanctions; they can no longer do that.  There’s going to be a sanction, there’s going to be a ticket, there’s going to be a suspension of their license if they refuse to submit to a DRE evaluation,” explains Benitez. 

The hope, according to prosecutors and families, is to catch impaired drivers and help them change their own lives, before they change someone else’s, “I hope that the law truly gets changed as a parent who has lost a beloved son — this was 17 years ago but for us and in our mind’s eye it’s always yesterday,” Rivera Sr. says.

For more information: https://deadlydrivingny.org/ or https://www.stopdwi.org/news/new-york-deadly-driving-legislation-receiving-more-attention-and-support/