New York Snubs 7500 Driver’s License Applicants. Is This The Best Approach to DUI?

Recently Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York announced that his state has denied drivers licenses to more than 7500 people since 2012, when a new crackdown on repeat drunk drivers began.

NY-Drivers-License-DeniedThe DMV has reviewed 8450 license applications from people with 3 or more impaired driving offenses. All but 829 of them have been refused.  Some of those drivers will be able to reapply in five years, but many of them are out of luck permanently – those who have committed very serious offenses, such as causing a fatal crash or accumulating 20 or more points worth of driving violations.

The Governor said, ““We will not tolerate drivers who repeatedly put others in danger… and thanks to our tougher DWI regulations, New York’s roadways are getting safer for everyone else to travel responsibly.”

No doubt the denials have taken some bad actors off the roads. But has New York chosen the safest path?

Every day one reads about offenders arrested for driving without a license. Many drunk drivers continue to drive despite a revoked license, and they are often drinking as well.

A better course would be to allow at least the ones who have the 5-year ban to have driving privileges, but with a 5-year ignition interlock restriction. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

In New York drivers with interlock devices are monitored closely, and anyone who fails a test is in for a world of hassle. Moreover, the offender pays the costs of the interlock.

Why allow these drivers to keep their privileges even though they’ve shown a willingness to flout the drunk driving laws?

  • Statistics show that more than half of offenders who have suspended licenses will drive anyway despite the prohibition.
  • Those who drive while suspended are uninsured, placing others at financial risk.
  • An ignition interlock would ensure that these drivers are not intoxicated while on the road.
  • Driving privileges would allow many of these offenders to get their lives together, receive treatment, and seek or retain good jobs.

The impulse to punish is a powerful and understandable one, but barring prison, which is a very costly option,  the only way to remove the threat of drunk drivers is through technology which prevents drivers from starting their car if they’ve been drinking. We hope that New York continues to keep dangerous drivers off the roads – with ignition interlocks.