You’re safer today on the highways than you were twenty years ago, and if you live in New York State, you have Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. to thank for that. During his tenure as a Republican member of the New York State Senate, Senator Fuschillo worked tirelessly for stronger DWI laws. His efforts were vital to the state’s success in reducing the number of drunk driving accidents on the roads. From 1998 to 2013, Fuschillo represented New York’s 8th State Senate district, which spans parts of both Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island.
A strong set of ignition interlock laws were among the legislation that Senator Fuschillo promoted and helped get passed. Currently New York requires ignition interlock devices for all DWI offenders.
“It was really a no-brainer,” says Fuschillo, noting that he encountered little resistance to interlock legislation. “We were looking for a tool to rid our streets of individuals who choose to be irresponsible.”
Statistics have shown a measurable decline in alcohol-related fatalities after ignition interlock laws are introduced. Has Fuschillo noted any changes himself?
“I’ve noticed a change in the thought process of individuals – no one wants to get arrested, or have a mandatory ignition interlock system in their car. But statistics in New York are still way too high; people are still choosing to drink and drive. Hopefully as time goes on, with strong anti-DWI laws and ignition interlock devices, the numbers will decrease.”
With interlock laws in place, Senator Fuschillo worked with the legislature to sew up some important loopholes. Offenders had been choosing to transfer their car’s title to another family
member and not drive at all (or, most likely, drive without a license) rather than install an ignition interlock device. Now one can no longer “wait out” one’s suspension in New York State. “Whenever you get your license back, you’re still going to have to get an ignition interlock for a period of time. There’s no way around it anymore.”
Though interlocks are growing in acceptance, some states instead promote alcohol abstinence programs as the primary method of addressing impaired driving. But Fuschillo contends
that interlocks are vital. “Drinking and driving is really the problem. We’re trying to prevent people from getting in the car and driving drunk –that’s where the ignition interlocks are important.”
Now that Fuschillo has left the State Senate to become CEO of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, it remains for others to take on the cause of making New York roads safer. That will mean continuing to strengthen the state’s DWI laws – including ignition interlock laws, which he says are “critically important in the fight against drunk driving.”
This is Part 2 of the series The Interlock at 22: A Safety Success Story. Part 1 can be found here.