Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor:

New Yorkers and the American people have made great strides toward eradicating the selfish scourge of drunk driving from our society. The numbers of needless deaths decline year after year and the legal penalties are stiffer than ever for those who choose to drive drunk or under the influence of drugs.

Yet, those who choose to operate a boat under the influence will face a relative slap on the wrist for their destructive choice. I recall one case in particular which perfectly illustrates this absurd regulatory gap.

According to a July 24, 2014 report in The Long-Islander, a man was charged with boating while intoxicated while he had two teenagers aboard. The man was charged with a misdemeanor. However, if he had done the same in a car, under Leandra’s Law, he would have been automatically charged with a felony. That baffling loophole in New York State law must change.

Legislation proposed during the 2015 session would correct the shortcomings of current laws. Known as Tiffany Heitkamp’s law, Assembly Bill 1597 would have made the penalties for drunk boating the same as those for drunk driving, and apply drunk boating convictions to the perpetrator’s driver’s license.

The New York State Senate also approved legislation in 2015 that would have created parity between drunk driving and boating laws, and applied those standards to ATVs and snowmobiles as well. A similar bill introduced in the Assembly stalled in 2014 after being reported to Codes, and was mothballed in the Transportation committee in 2015.

Working with the leaders of the Greater Huntington Council of Yacht and Boating Clubs, who have tirelessly fought for common-sense legislation to improve boating safety for all New Yorkers, I will continue to vigorously support the passage of legislation that will create true parity between drunk-boating and drunk-driving laws in New York State. Only then will the message that it is never acceptable to get behind the wheel under the influence — of a car or a boat — be crystal clear.

I encourage you to write to your local Assembly member and State Senator, as well as Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, and Governor Andrew Cuomo, and urge them to ensure Tiffany’s Law is enacted in 2016.

NYS Assemblyman Chad A. Lupinacci

Huntington NY (10th AD)

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