Girgenti Bill To Ground Drunk Pilots Apprved By Committee

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator John A. Girgenti, which would keep those in the air and on the ground safe by modifying the penalties for flying or serving as a crew members on an aircraft while impaired, was approved today by the Senate Law, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee.

Senator Girgenti stated that he hopes to reduce the risk of aircraft crashes though legislation that would require violations of a blood alcohol concentration level of .04% be reported to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

“Flying while intoxicated doesn’t happen often, but when it does, the results are usually tragic,” said Senator Girgenti, D-Bergen and Passaic.”Too many aircraft crashes are connected to alcohol and drug consumption. In order to keep our citizens in the air and on the ground safe, we need to tighten the regulations involving aircraft pilots and crew members.”

The bill, S-2290, would prohibit pilots and crew members from consuming alcohol within eight hours of their flight. The bill creates an implied consent provision for testing the blood alcohol level of anyone believed to be under the influence. The penalty for operating an aircraft while impaired would be similar to the penalty when driving a car under the influence.

“In hopes of deterring drinking before flying, pilots who fail the tests lose their medical certificates, which they need to continue flying,” said Senator Girgenti. “Most pilots and crew members are scrupulous about not mixing alcohol and flying, but they still need to remember that there are plenty of legal drugs that can affect their ability to fly safely. Now that we’re in the cold and flu season, many over-the-counter drugs can affect judgment, reaction time and contain a high dose of alcohol.

The Senator noted that the bill would modify State law to correspond with standards already imposed by the FAA, which state that anyone who operates or serves as a crew member is prohibited from consuming alcoholic beverages, or being under the influence of narcotics or hallucinogenics within eight hours of his or her flight. The Senator also stated that,”Although the FAA may impose sanctions on any person who violates federal regulations, it is up to the States to test for intoxication and assess criminal penalties.”

The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.