The scene was normal. Bumper to bumper traffic on the Southern State Parkway during morning rush hour. It was with that backdrop that Governor George Pataki and Assemblyman Tom Alfano held a press conference to discuss a new initiative and law to address road rage on our roadways.
Assemblyman Tom Alfano flanked by Assemblyman Bob Barra, Governor George Pataki and Senator Mike Balboni.
Alfano and Pataki announced the proposed legislation to combat road rage by establishing the crimes of criminal aggressive driving, with penalties ranging from a Class D felony for the first degree offense to a Class A misdemeanor for the third degree offense.
"We have witnessed an alarming rise in the number of people who drive their cars in a hostile and threatening way," Governor Pataki said. "Automobiles can be deadly weapons in the hands of someone who is in a rage. This bill sends a clear message to all drivers - if you use your car in a menacing way, and put the safety of others at risk - you will be severely punished."
Assemblyman Tom Alfano joined the governor in the presentation and news conference. The State Police Barracks used are in the 22nd district located on the borders of Franklin Square and Elmont. "Alarmingly, instances of road rage are increasing in numbers and severity. Throughout the past six years, Governor Pataki has demonstrated a tremendous commitment to fight crime in New York State. I believe the governor's proposal is another important step that is needed to help our police officers ensure the safety of our streets.
Alfano also noted that the new technology used in the State Police cruisers will assist in tracking road rage on parkways like the Southern State. "The investment in technology and upgraded cruisers will assist our police in prevention," Alfano noted.
Under the legislation, anyone convicted of criminal aggressive driving will automatically lose their privilege to drive for definite periods and will be unable to obtain another license until they successfully complete a defensive driving course or driver improvement program.
Additionally, under the bill, the required pre-licensing course for new drivers will include a component on the types and consequences of aggressive driving. Collectively, these measures are designed to advance the safety and well-being of those who use New York's highways by increasing the penalties for those who threaten and harm others and who grossly abuse their license to drive on our roads.
A new section will also be added to the vehicle and traffic law making it a misdemeanor for a motor vehicle operator to knowingly flee or attempt to elude a police officer after having been directed to stop by the officer. The bill makes this conduct a Class E felony, if, as a result of the driver's conduct, the police officer or a third person suffers physical injury.