Lancaster Man Gets Probation In Drowsy Driving Crash

12:01 AM, May 16, 2013   |    comments
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BUFFALO, NY-- A Lancaster man who hit and killed a Depew teenager last July avoided jail time and was sentenced to probation Wednesday.

Radames Candelaria got one year probation from the judge.

Candelaria admitted he fell asleep at the wheel and and hit 18-year-old Ashley Creighton, who died of her injuries.

Creighton was waiting for a bus near the intersection of Broadway and Penora when she was hit and killed.

Candelaria stood just feet from the victim's family members as he was sentenced Wednesday.

"He apologized," said Gail Thompson, Ashley's guardian. "I told him I have to forgive him so I can stop feeling dead inside. My mind don't want to forgive him, but my heart has to, so I can go on."

As Candelaria left court, he told reporters he "felt horrible" about what happened.

In addition to probation, Candelaria will also have to pay $1,100 in vehicle and traffic fines.

The punishment may seem light because Candelaria admitted to reckless driving, which is an unclassified misdemeanor, which is not defined by the law.


Thompson said she felt the sentence was fair considering current state law, but she and Ashley's other family members would like to see the law changed. They'll be pushing for tougher penalties for drowsy drivers.

Currently, there is a bill pending in Albany that would create a new law called "vehicular homicide caused by driving while ability impaired by fatigue." Someone convicted of the crime would face up to 3 years in prison. This bill is in the Assembly.

Also, lawmakers in the Senate are debating whether to create an aggravated reckless driving law, punishable of one year in jail or three years probation. Republican State Senator Mike Ranzenhofer has signed onto it, in addition to Senators Tim Kennedy and George Maziarz.

"I think the whole bill could possibly fail, which I don't want to happen, I want to make sure the bill gets passed," said Ranzenhofer, who says that outlawing drowsy driving could delay the law's passage.

The proposed law would not penalize drivers like Candelaria. Even though it's intention would be to stop "egregious acts of reckless driving" and stop drivers from "operating in a manner that creates a grave risk of death." Many wonder if falling asleep at the wheel counts.

"It certainly could and one of the things that might happen is that a lot of people might say how do you define drowsy driving? Is it going to be I haven't slept for a certain period of time? Is it feeling tired?" Ranzenhofer questioned.

The proposed law defines reckless driving as driving against traffic and aggressively weaving in and out of traffic, among several other provisions.

Passing a reckless driving bill has been tough - they seem to never be able to make it out of committee.

Ranzenhofer thinks lawmakers can pass a bill without outlawing drowsy driving and go back and add it at a later date.

In 2011, Democrat Assemblymember Dennis Gabryszak signed onto a bill that would've made drowsy driving a misdemeanor, but that effort failed.



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