Pickett reintroduces hit-and-run bill
HARRISBURG - Legislation that will help to save the lives of those involved in hit-and-run vehicle crashes has been reintroduced in the new 2013-14 legislative session by Rep. Tina Pickett (R-Bradford/Sullivan/Susquehanna), author of the proposal.
The legislation would specifically deal with hit-and-run crashes involving serious injury or death and assess criminal penalties upon the passengers in a fleeing vehicle.
"Under current law, there is no legal requirement for anyone to call for help when a hit-and-run accident occurs, and if that crash is serious, every second is important in making sure any victims get prompt medical attention," Pickett said. "The present law makes it easier for someone who has caused an accident - either a passenger or a driver - to flee if he or she may be under the influence or afraid of contacting authorities for any reason. If the passengers in that fleeing vehicle are able to call for help, the law should make it clear they must do so."
House Bill 401 would hold passengers traveling in the vehicle at the time as legally responsible as the driver of that vehicle for reporting the accident to authorities as soon as possible.
Pickett's legislation is modeled after similar legislation in New York, known as "Steven's Law." A former Bradford County resident, age 17, was killed by a hit-and-run driver while cycling in Ashland, N.Y. on March 22, 2007. The body was not discovered until the next day because neither the driver of the vehicle, nor the passengers in the vehicle, reported the accident to police.
"It is the intent of this legislation to hold equally accountable those passengers who, by their presence in the vehicle, are involved in and knowingly witness a hit-and-run accident involving serious injury or death, yet decline to report the accident to authorities," Pickett said.
Under House Bill 401, penalties for passengers who fail to report a hit-and-run accident would be the same as those imposed against a driver who is guilty of the same offense. If the victim suffers bodily injury, the violation is a third-degree felony, with a minimum prison term of not less than 90 days, and a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000.
If the victim dies, the violation is a third-degree felony, with a minimum prison term of not less than one year, and a mandatory minimum fine of $2,500.
The legislation has been referred to the House Transportation Committee for consideration.
Submitted by Rep. Tina Pickett