Horrific Accident on Taconic Parkway gives way to proposed legislation

On July 26, a horrible accident on the Taconic Parkway claimed the lives of seven people and that of the driver of suspected vehicle. Diane Schuller‘s accident was initially thought to be just that, an accident. When first looking at the picture of Diane Schuler, you immediately one might think, what could have caused this terrible tragedy. Was it the road, did she have a medical problem like diabetes or epilepsy? The NYS Police even thought that during the initial investigation, they ‘have no reason to believe that Diane Schuler was intoxicated or impaired by drugs in any way’. They were not even factored into the equation. However, three days later, State Police released toxicology results, showing that she had a blood alcohol level of 0.19 percent. They also release that she had alcohol in her stomach that was not even metabolized.  Another devastating piece of evidence- a broken 1.75 liter of Absolut vodka was found in the minivan she was driving.  If that was not enough, high levels of a chemical found in marijuana were pinpointed her last use to 15 minutes to 1 hour before the fatal crash.

Many questions surrounding the accident began to swirl around her, her husband and perhaps marital problems, and the possible reasons for her to consume such high levels of alcohol, began to engulf the local papers and Internet. None of that made any difference anymore; it was pure speculation on everyone’s part.

 A couple of days following the release of the toxicology reports, Gov David Paterson proposed legislation that ‘would make it a felony to drive while drunk or high on drugs when a passenger under the age of 16 is in the car’.  One out of 7000 people injured related to driver intoxication. The NY Times is quoted, “of the 344 who lost their lives, 200 were under the age of 14.”  Thirty-five states have child endangerment laws that would impose much higher penalties against anyone driving drunk with children in the cars. Presently in NYS, the law does not treat those who drive drunk with a child any differently. Denise E.O’Connell, commissioner of the NYS Division of /criminal Justice Services says, “Gov Paterson’s legislation gives children a voice that should be heard loud and clear by anyone who would dare to transport a child while they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs”.

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