It should not be necessary, but it is. A law pending in the state Legislature would make it a felony to get behind the wheel drunk if there are children under 16 in the vehicle. Penalties would start at up to four years in prison and escalate from there if a child were injured or killed.
The bill has been named Leandra’s Law after Leandra Rosado, an 11-year-old girl killed last month in a fiery crash on the Henry Hudson Parkway. The driver, Carmen Huertas, was allegedly intoxicated when she got behind the wheel of a car filled with seven children. Two of the others in the car were seriously injured in the accident.
Leandra’s Law has the backing of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other organizations. An online petition seeks public support for the bill.
At the moment, driving drunk, even with a car full of children, is only a misdemeanor, at least for the first offense. The state should not withhold serious punishment until a child is maimed or killed. Driving drunk with children in the car is an act of incredible recklessness.
Despite the tragic stories that make headlines nearly every day, otherwise responsible people continue to drink and drive. The state is right to do everything possible to put the fear of God into these drivers. They must make the decision that if they are going to drink, they are not going to drive, especially if there will be children in their cars.
We do not support this law lightly. The drunk driver does not usually intend to commit a crime. Often they are decent people with a job and families to support. Tragic drivers like Huertas must deal with a lifetime of guilt that is most likely worse than going to prison.
Hopefully the fear of prison that comes with Leandra’s Law will keep the next Carmen Huertas from getting behind the wheel.
©2009 Community News Group
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