Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney led a push Monday against drunk and drugged driving, standing alongside a host of law enforcement personnel and relatives of people who had been killed in car crashes.
The “Deadly Driving Is No Accident” campaign includes a demand for a change in a state law that makes it impossible to charge a driver if the drug cannot be identified because it’s not on a list of controlled substances. This includes designer or synthetic drugs, Tierney said.
The press conference at the state police Troop L barracks in Farmingdale had extra urgency, Tierney and others said, because of the rise in drinking around Thanksgiving, especially “Blackout Wednesday” on the eve of the holiday.
“Let’s talk to our kids and everyone in the family about staying safe this holiday season,” Tierney said. “Everyone, kids and adults alike, need to think about how they’re going to get home after celebrating with friends and family. Parents, you should all be making it clear that even if your kids are underage but been drinking or are impaired in any way, that their safety matters most. Tell them now that you will pick them up, no questions asked. Remind them to never get in a car with other people unless they can literally trust those people with their lives.”
Speakers repeatedly urged friends and families to stop impaired drivers from getting onto the roads, including calling police if necessary, to protect “the lives of random and innocent roadway users” from harm.
Law enforcement leaders who participated in the press conference included Suffolk Sheriff Dr. Errol Toulon Jr., Nassau DA Anne Donnelly and Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder.
Ryder said of the proposed legislative change, “It’s not a big lift. Do the right thing for the victims.”
Relatives of some Long Islanders killed by drunk drivers spoke with poignancy about the loss of their loved ones.
Among the speakers were Alisa and John McMorris, whose son, Andrew, was killed while participating in a Boy Scout hike alongside a road in 2018. The driver, Thomas Murphy, was convicted of drunken driving.
The campaign’s website, DeadlyDrivingNY.org, criticizes current state law, saying that it is “full of loopholes” and that “New York’s laws do not work well to stop drugged drivers beore they crash–that leaves deadly drivers free to endanger everyone.” The coalition of dozens of organizations around the state–including district attorneys, bicycle groups, police, families and others–says that fatal and serious crashes are up 43 percent, and fatalities up 63.92 percent in New York from 2019 to 2020.
Several organizations plan to take their demands for change to the state Capitol on Jan. 9.