Parents whose children were killed by drunk or drugged drivers joined Long Island law enforcement Monday to push for a state law that would allow police to target dangerous, impaired drivers.
The application – called the Deadly Driving Bill — is necessary because police officers in New York state currently can only arrest drugged drivers if they are under the influence of a controlled substance that is on a health list, said Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney.
This frees many from the hook – such as those impaired by unlisted drugs such as Rohypnol and Xylazine, the flesh-rotting “zombie” drug commonly known by its street name “Tranq,” Tierney said at a news conference Monday morning.
“If drivers use these drugs and drive impaired … and endanger everyone around them, under the current state of our law, they cannot be charged with driving under the influence or anything else because these drugs are simply not on that list of public health laws,” the district said the attorney.
“This is wrong… [and] it doesn’t make sense,” he continued. “The law does not require police or constables to name a specific type of alcohol that impairs a driver…Is it beer?” Is it rum? Is it gin? This is not required by law.”
The victims’ heartbroken family members were on hand to drive the point home – which they did in a sad and tearful way.
“The monster that murdered my son was almost 40 years old and driving under the influence of fentanyl,” said Andrea Carpenter, whose 22-year-old son Timothy was killed in Centereach, Long Island, in March when an addict walked over three lanes of traffic and crashed into the car he was driving.
“This addict was driving a big, heavy truck,” she continued. “They didn’t have a chance… We don’t even think he hit the brakes.”
However, she noted that the driver – Christopher Guzman, 39, of Farmingdale, who survived the crash with a minor cut – had a long drug history and had overdosed several times, including in the weeks just before the crash.
“Even if this addict had been stopped by law enforcement immediately before the accident, under the current law, he could not have been charged with driving under the influence because police would not have been able to identify the drug that caused him to do so has high and so dangerous,” Carpenter said.
“And that’s crazy.”
Guzman was later charged with aggravated road traffic homicideManslaughter, involuntary manslaughter and other charges.
He died in September — the culmination of another overdose, Carpenter said.
“We never got justice for our son in court,” she lamented as her husband Tim stood next to her crying.
According to the legislature’s website, the bill, which has bipartisan support, is currently in the Senate Transportation Committee.
Others took a more forceful approach, accusing state lawmakers of not yet passing the measure.
“Albany! You have to do your job!” Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick J. Ryder said at the press conference.
“We are asking for a simple change, a simple change in the law,” he continued. “This is not a difficult task! God knows you’ve written enough laws for the villain! Now you must write one and stand with our victims…who have lost their families.”
“Do right by the victims,” he added. “Thank you very much.”