Charlotte’s Law was established in honor of my former mother-in-law Charlotte Shannon Gallo who was killed while walking in a crosswalk, on January 2, 2010, by an individual driving a truck who had numerous serious traffic violations on his driving history. Under the current NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law, the toughest sanction he could get from DMV was a one year license revocation. The Schenectady County District Attorney (the county where the fatality occurred) only gave him a $100 fine for failure to yield. Char was 78 years old and a vibrant member of the community, a devoted mother and grandmother, and a loyal member of her local VFW woman’s auxiliary.

I could not allow Char’s death to be in vain. Because I have over 25 years experience as an Analyst with the Department of Motor Vehicles (I retired from that job in 2009) I was very familiar with the laws governing drunk drivers, repeat offenders and the process for license revocations. The laws are inadequate as they stand. While there were provisions for more than a one-year license revocation, they were rarely utilized. Additionally, because there are sections of the law that allow for appeals and discretionary reinstatement, the revocation was not sufficient. After reviewing the law for nearly a year it became clear to me that we needed something new. We needed something no other state has done and something that would be permanent. This new law could not be a part of a revocation because revocations have permissive authority for reinstatement. Therefore, new terminology and a new sanction needed to be established. That is where I came up with the concept of “termination of privilege” because a driver license is a privilege. No other state has used this phrase and no law exists to permanently terminate the driving privilege of a licensed driver in any state. Let me be clear, this is not a revocation. It is a permanent termination of a driver license. There is no process for appeal. It is not reversible. It is permanent.

This proposed new section of the V&T Law, referred to as Charlotte’s Law, is also referred to as the “Termination of Privileges Act” and will allow for only 3 critical violations within a 25 year period. Such violations include fatality, personal injury (at fault), DWI and DUI. Individuals who have 3 such offenses at three different times over a 25 year period will have their drive license privilege permanently terminated in New York State. Hopefully, other states will follow and hopefully other states will honor the NYS termination and will not allow the licensee to receive a driver license in their state. In other words, we are hoping that all states will honor the termination.

After I drafted the proposed intent of the law I went to meet with Assemblyman James Tedisco. I knew that he would take this serious and that he would support this proposal. It made sense to him as it did to me. Assemblyman Tedisco took on the bill, had it written with his staff and bill drafting and the bill became a reality. We are now waiting for support from all New York State representatives.

For decades families who have lost a loved one in a motor vehicle accident to someone driving under the influence or someone with a horrific driving record have had little recourse. Vehicle homicide and vehicle manslaughter require a breathalyzer and alcohol conviction. Not all persistent violators have alcohol related convictions or they are not given the breathalyzer. They slip through the cracks as do many convicted of DWI/ DUI who serve out there one year revocation only to return to the road a year later. A local woman in Schenectady County was recently (February 2012) sentenced to time in prison but only after nine DWI/DUI convictions. Another individual killed a pedestrian crossing the road and fled the scene. He had over 9 suspensions and because he was not able to be given a breathalyzer, he could not be charged with vehicular homicide or vehicular manslaughter. Likewise, the man who killed my mother in law had been involved in a personal injury accident two years to the day when he killed my mother-in- law. He served a one year license revocation and received only a $100 fine for failure to yield. Had he killed her with a bb gun, he would have been charged with manslaughter and gone to prison. He is out there now, driving, and is a threat and danger to every pedestrian and motorist.

The current Vehicle and Traffic Law allows for too many opportunities to appeal a license revocation (which is usually only for one year). In addition, with only a one-year revocation, many will risk driving and not getting caught since it is such a short period of time. License revocations are, therefore, ineffective in deterring these repeat offenders from destructive driving.

When I worked under former Governor Mario Cuomo, I was assigned to the Unlicensed Driver Program. The then Governor was appalled that individuals with numerous tickets for driving while suspended were able to continue driving without legal recourse. We put a 3 strikes law into place that made it a felony if you were caught driving 3 times while under suspension. It is fortuitous that the new Governor Andrew Cuomo would follow in his father’s footsteps and use this new 3 strikes law to keep these destructive drivers permanently off the road. I hope that he will take a personal interest in this law and require that it be implemented immediately.

Here is what you can do: Write to your representative and urge him or her to support Assembly bill A08934A.

Why should you do this? Because your loved one could be the next person killed by a repeat offender of the Vehicle and Traffic Law. It is only a matter of time before someone else is killed by these destructive drivers. Only terminating their driving privilege permanently will send a message loud and clear that we will no longer tolerate this threat to all motorists and pedestrians.

If you would like to talk to me further about this proposed legislation, feel free to email me at hvbf@aol.com

Dr. Linda Rozell-Shannon (PhD)

Charlotte Gallo (L) pictured here with Dr. Linda Rozell-Shannon (author of Charlotte's Law)