It's not surprising that important legislation sometimes get tossed aside in the Legislature's mad rush to wrap up business in Albany, but a bill introduced by two Western New York lawmakers should get another look in the next session.
Alix's Law, named after the teen who was hit and killed by Dr. James G. Corasanti of Amherst, passed the Senate but failed in the Assembly.
Corasanti, who was driving drunk and had been texting, struck Alexandria Rice, 18, as she skateboarded home late at night from her job at a pizza shop. She was killed instantly. What followed was a controversial trial in which Corasanti was acquitted of vehicular manslaughter and leaving the scene of a fatal accident without reporting it, resulting in death.
Needless to say, many Western New Yorkers were outraged. People did not understand how the jury could come to such a conclusion, or how Corasanti's lawyers could defend him. But the lawyers were doing their jobs and following the law. That sparked an attempt to change the law to prevent a repeat.
State Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan, R-Elma, joined by Assemblyman Dennis R. Gabryszak, D-Cheektowaga, endeavored to do just that by introducing a bill that would hold drunken drivers accountable for leaving the scene of an accident without investigating it themselves and reporting it to law enforcement. Senate passage occurred last week, but the Assembly proved more challenging.
Gabryszak's disappointment is shared by those who believe that the twist of irony that allowed Corasanti to benefit from a gaping loophole in the law should be closed. Corasanti was able to walk on the charge of leaving the scene of an accident because he convinced jurors that he was unaware he had struck Rice, despite his badly crumpled car hood and testimony that the impact generated an "ungodly" noise. The fact that Corasanti was intoxicated and texting as he drove home from a country club may have helped convince jurors that he truly did not know he'd hit anyone. Being guilty of one offense that may have resulted in others is, by most logical standards, indefensible.
The Gallivan-Gabryszak bill may not be the best solution to closing a gaping hole in logic and the law, but it is a starting point. The important point here is to update the laws so people think twice before getting behind the wheel while drunk. If the penalty for driving drunk isn't enough to deter such behavior, perhaps the idea of facing harsh penalties for leaving the scene of an accident will do the trick.
There are no perfect solutions, but what is apparent is that there is a need to address a loophole, and Alix's Law is a place to start.