Unfortunately, drunk driving is still a main cause of serious and even fatal car crashes in New York state and throughout the country. In fact, a recent article from Empire State News quotes a state senator indicating that a leading cause of fatal car crashes in New York is drivers who operate their vehicles while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In order to combat the havoc that impaired driving is wreaking on our state, the New York State Senate unanimously passed Bill S6745. This bill requires BAC (blood alcohol concentration) testing for all drivers who survive a car accident that results in death or injury where law enforcement reasonably believes that the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs when the collision occurred. This proposed law would greatly curtail a driver’s right to refuse BAC testing under the current law.
The Current Law
Under New York’s current law, drivers involved in car crashes are given the option to deny blood alcohol testing at the scene of the incident. Although, it should be noted that doing so can cause the driver to forfeit their license for a set period of time. If a driver refuses the testing, officers who suspect that the driver was impaired by drugs or alcohol while operating their vehicle may appeal to a judge and request a warrant to administer chemical tests without the driver’s permission. The problem with this procedure is that it can take hours, and during that time a drunk driver may be able to sober up and thereby escape prosecution.
The Proposed Law
If Bill S6745 passes the State Assembly and is signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo, police officers who respond to serious car accidents will have a new tool to help combat drunk driving. The proposed law requires that all drivers who are involved in a car accident that results in injury or death submit to BAC testing if a police officer at the scene reasonably believes that the driver is impaired by drugs or alcohol. The proposed bill will now be sent to the New York State Assembly for approval, however, there is no guarantee that this bill will actually become law as it was struck down in 2010, 2012, and 2014.
However, if the bill is signed into law it would likely lead to a steep increase in the percent of drivers who have their BAC tested after surviving fatal car crashes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Final Report on State Law and Practices for BAC Testing and Reporting Drivers Involved in Fatal Crashes (2012), approximately 4 percent of drivers who survived fatal automobile crashes in New York had their blood alcohol concentration level tested by the authorities. The report also notes that only a few other states tested such a low percentage of drivers. Perhaps the fact that New York is testing far fewer drivers than other states is one reason why Bill S6745 was unanimously approved by the State Senate.
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DISCLAIMER: The exclusive purpose of this article is educational and it is not intended as either legal advice or a general solution to any specific legal problem.