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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Bill would make wrong-way driving a felony


    The State Senate has passed a bill that would make wrong-way driving a felony punishable by up to four years in prison.

    Sen. Charles Fuschillo, who sponsored the bill after at least 20 wrong-way driving incidents on Long Island since mid-November, hailed the measure’s unanimous passage on Tuesday and said he expects it will easily pass the Assembly.

    “”We need to put these reckless actions to an end,”” Fuschillo (R-Merrick) said Wednesday. “”Too many people are being killed or put in harm’s way and it has to stop. Hopefully this will serve as a greater deterrent.””

    The bill currently is in the Assembly’s transportation committee. Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) is its sponsor.

    The Senate-passed measure creates the charge of aggravated reckless driving as a felony. The charge would apply to a person who drives “”against the flow of traffic, either knowingly or because they are intoxicated.””

    It also would apply to motorists who drive more than 30 mph over the speed limit while intoxicated or impaired, or while street racing or excessively weaving in and out of traffic, officials said.

    The father of Andre Menzies, 35, of North Babylon, an off-duty New York City police officer who was killed Nov. 15 by a driver accused of driving drunk the wrong way on the Northern State Parkway, called the bill’s Senate passage “”a wonderful thing.””

    “”I am all for it,”” said Robert Menzies, 58, who lives in Jamaica, Queens. “”Something has to be done because innocent people are getting hurt.””

    He said he constantly replays his son’s death in his head. “”I think about it all the time. I try to figure out how he could have escaped from that,”” the father said. “”But I guess he wasn’t even aware.””

    Michael Bowen, 50, of Brooklyn, is awaiting trial in Menzies’ death. He has pleaded not guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide, vehicular manslaughter, manslaughter, drunken driving and other charges.

    Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice, who worked with Fuschillo to draft the bill, said the law would give police and prosecutors tools they’ve never had before to punish the most dangerous of drivers. Currently, it is only illegal to drive the wrong way on a one-way street, but not on a highway.

    “”People act this way with complete impunity, and the reason why is because the laws are not strong enough to allow DA’s to go after people,”” Rice said. “”Now we’re going to be able to.””

    The bill also raises the penalty for reckless driving from a maximum of 30 days in jail to a maximum of one year.

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