Following approval of legislation passed by the New York Senate, wrong-way and reckless drivers will now face felony driving charges.

Senate Bill 3452 establishes an entirely new crime called “aggravated reckless driving.” These new felony charges may be levied against any driver who drives the wrong way against the flow of traffic either because they were intoxicated or not; drive more than 30 mph over the speed limit while intoxicated or impaired; or those who driver more than 30 mph over the speed limit while they are weaving in traffic, racing or chasing other vehicles.

Supporters of the measure say it is needed as the number of wrong way and reckless driving crashes resulting in injury or loss of life has spiked in recent years. Most notably, in 2010 an off duty New York Police Officer, Andre Menzies, was struck and killed by an intoxicated wrong-way driver on the Northern State Parkway.

Wrong-way driving crashes have also occurred in New Rochelle and in Westchester County.

Under the new law, which has now gone to Assembly for a vote, aggravated reckless driving will become a class E felony, punishable by a prison sentence of up to four years. The legislation will also raise the penalty for reckless driving to a class A misdemeanor, punishable by a prison sentence of up to one year. under current law reckless driving is an unclassified misdemeanor and carries a maximum sentence of up to 30 days in prison.

Around the country, wrong-way driving has killed dozens of drivers who never expected to see another vehicle coming toward them, the wrong way, either in the dead of night or during broad daylight. Sometimes the wring-way drivers were intoxicated or under the influence, and other times they simply had a death wish and sought a head-on collision. Regardless of why they do it, in New York state it is unacceptable and legislators are looking to make the punishment fit the crime.

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