DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN – Assembly Member Joseph Lentol (District 50, North Brooklyn) and Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced this morning the Hit-and-Run Prevention Act, a series of initiatives aimed to reduce the number of hit-and-run incidents throughout the city.
In the last two years, over 100 hit-and-runs in NYC have resulted in death or serious physical injury (which can include lost limbs or severe organ damage), according to a statement from Lentol’s office.
The Assembly Member states that the number of hit-and-run incidents can be reduced by educating the public about the penalties suspects face in hit-and-runs, and by stressing the importance of time after an incident occurs as every minute counts in ensuring that victims receive necessary medical treatment.
“Unfortunately, my district has seen too many hit-and-runs. We have countless cyclists and they are more susceptible to being seriously injured or killed when involved in a collision,” Lentol said in a statement.
“I am hopeful that these initiatives will bring clarity to the importance of staying on the scene of an accident, provide a mechanism to increase the chances of finding a hit-and-run suspect, and also de-incentivize people that are intoxicated from leaving,” he added.
The bill’s three initiatives include:
A Public Education Campaign – A $1,000,000 public information campaign would be established by the NYS Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) to teach the public about the laws regarding hit-and-runs, including the potential of jail time. The campaign would stress the importance of staying on the scene after an incident and notifying the authorities. The campaign would also encourage drivers to stop and help victims since regardless of whether they are sober or intoxicated, the crime for leaving the scene would be the same.
A Hit-and-Run Alert System – The bill would authorize the DCJS to establish and administer a statewide alert system for vehicles involved in hit-and-runs. An alert would be requested by law enforcement authorities when a hit-and-run results in serious physical injury or death.
Closing the Hit-and-Run Intoxication Loophole – The bill would increase the penalties for leaving the scene of a hit-and-run that results in serious physical injury (from a Class E Felony to a Class D Felony) or death (from a Class D Felony to a Class C Felony).
According to Lentol, currently if a driver is severely intoxicated and involved in a crash that seriously injures or kills someone and stays at the scene, the driver would be charged with a more serious offense than if he/she were sober and left the scene.
This loophole in the law encourages a drunk driver to leave the accident scene because they can receive a lesser charge, the Assembly Member insists. Lentol’s bill would equally punish drivers, whether they are sober or intoxicated, who leave the scene of an accident instead of staying to help the victims.
“I am fully committed to holding drivers who kill or injure others fully accountable, which can be a challenge at times because of certain deficiencies in our current laws,” Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said in a statement.
“This is why I support the legislation announced today by Assemblyman Lentol, which would close the loophole that incentivizes drunk drivers to flee the scene of a crash, fund an educational campaign and establish an alert system for hit and runs,” Gonzalez added. “These tools will help us keep pedestrians, cyclists and drivers in Brooklyn safe so I strongly urge the Legislature to enact these common sense measures into law.”
The bill will be introduced in the upcoming legislative session in January 2018.