According to a report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, car accidents killed 37,461 people in 2016 — a 5.6% increase from the previous year.
The Gianaris Bill, which aims to reduce that number of casualties in following years, was passed unanimously.
Senator Gianaris had originally begun work on the bill back in 2013 in response to the death of eight-year-old Noshat Nahian. The recent January death of Kevin Flores, a teenager from Ridgewood, pushed Gianris to work harder.
The bill will stiffen the criminal penalties that drivers — who are operating their vehicle without a valid license — will receive if they seriously injure or kill someone as a result of a motor vehicle accident. Until the implementation of the bill, unlicensed drivers who get into an accident that result in injury or death are typically charged with a misdemeanor in New York State.
Which is exactly what happened with 13-year-old Kevin Flores, who was struck by a truck and killed in January. The driver of the truck, Philip Monfoletto, was charged with a misdemeanor for driving on a suspended license. He had nine license suspensions according to the New York Post as well as The New York State Senate website. New York State Law dictates that you don’t receive felony charges until you have 10 license suspensions (from different dates).
Monfoletto then proceeded to scoff at the leniency of New York laws in a social media post, according to multiple sources.
The new bill will make it a Class E felony to severely injure someone while driving without a license, and a Class D felony if a person is killed as a result of the accident. The new felony penalty for an accident resulting in death is now referred to as, “vehicular homicide,” according to the New York Post.
Currently, the New York State Penal Law categorizes felony charges and punishments as follows, in descending order of severity:
- Class A Violent: Sentence to life, 20-25
- Class B Violent: 5-25 years
- Class B Non-Violent: 1-3, max of 25 years
- Class C Violent: 3 1/2 to 15 years
- Class C Non-Violent: No jail, probation of 1-2 to 15 years
- Class D Violent: 2-7 years
- Class D Non-Violent: No jail, probation of 1-3 to 7 years
- Class E Violent: No jail, probation of 1 1/2 to 4 years
- Class E Non-Violent: No jail, probation of 1 1/3 to 4 years
The Gianaris bill would make vehicular homicide a punishable offense of up to seven years in jail, and a severe injury would result in a probation sentence of up to four years.
There are roughly six million car accidents in the United States every year, including half a million big rig accidents, and up to 2.35 million Americans are injured or disabled as a result of auto accidents. This new bill could potentially reduce the number of unlicensed drivers in New York, and hopefully, the number of accidents.