Families scarred by drunken drivers want interlock law fixed

Relatives who lost loved ones to drunken drivers are calling on lawmakers to make the interlock law tougher.

Relatives who lost loved ones to drunken drivers are calling on lawmakers to make the interlock law tougher. (12/30/12)

MINEOLA - A group of Long Islanders who have lost loved ones to crashes with drunken drivers convened a press conference today to call for a fix to a legal loophole, so that DWI offenders can't escape their sentences.

The grief-torn group is calling on state lawmakers to address a provision in Leandra's Law, named for 11-year-old Leandra Rosado, whose life was cut short by a drunken driver. The provision requires all convicted DWI offenders to install ignition interlock devices, which are like portable breath tests that prevent a vehicle from operating if alcohol is detected.

However, new statistics show that some 70 percent of DWI offenders don't install the device on their cars.

Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice says convicted DWI offenders simply lie to the court about owning a vehicle, or transfer their vehicle registration to a friend or family member, so they can continue driving without the interlock device.

To close the loophole, some lawmakers have proposed making offenders wear an ankle bracelet that monitors a person's blood alcohol level for at least six months.

Among those at the conference today was Lynn Scarpati, whose son, Matt, was set to graduate from college this year. He never got the chance to graduate from the University of Buffalo because he was killed by a drunken driver in 2009. Lynn Scarpati says she'd like to see zero-tolerance laws for drunken drivers enacted in the state.

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