At the end of last month, three people were killed in two hit-and-run accidents in New York City; the motorist responsible for each accident was driving with a suspended license. On Staten Island, the man who killed an elderly Staten Island couple walking to church had his license suspended 29 times, and the driver accused of mowing down 42-year-old bride-to-be Sonya Powell also had a suspended license, for failing to a pay a ticket for going 80 mph in a 50-mph zone. Yesterday, Powell's fiancé David Shephard joined others at City Hall to demand some big changes.

"Sonya was a kind and loving person who touched the lives of thousands of people. She would have wanted any legislative action possible to ensure that this type of tragedy doesn’t happen to any other family," said Shephard. The driver who allegedly killed his fiancé, 28-year-old Sheldon Reid, has had his license suspended four times, and Transportation Alternatives is calling on the state legislature to enact tougher laws and enforcement that will keep suspended and unlicensed drivers off the road. Their reform proposals include:

  • "Get unlicensed drivers off New York State roadways. New York State should follow the lead of other states and impose vehicle sanctions with the first offense. These measures have been shown to reduce crash rates among these drivers by as much as 35% among repeat offenders. The legislature should... empower police to immediately impound the vehicle of anyone caught driving with a suspended license."
  • "Strengthen penalties against unlicensed drivers that injure or kill. T.A. urges the New York State Legislature to pass Assembly bill #5124, introduced by Assembly Member Joseph R. Lentol. Under this law, any driver that has committed two or more dangerous moving violations within the 18 months before a fatal or injurious crash could be charged with a felony."
  • "Create an Office of Road Safety at New York City Hall to facilitate increased and targeted enforcement. By increasing moving violation performance objectives for NYPD officers, and demanding more stringent, constant traffic enforcement, many more suspended drivers will be caught before they have a chance to kill."
"What kind of sick system encourages dangerous drivers to get back behind the wheel again and again, only to give them a slap on the wrist when they inevitably kill or injure others?" asked Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, unlicensed drivers are nearly four times as likely to be involved in traffic crashes as those with valid licenses. And 75% of drivers with suspended licenses continue to drive!