Monday, November 21, 2011

Hit-and-Run Crashes and What You Can Do

We want to step outside of the immediate tragedy of the bicyclist killed in the bike lane on Lehigh Ave and place the event in a larger context. Unfortunately, that context is a skewed legal system which perversely encourages drunk drivers to leave the scene after a crash.

Say what? Here's what:
  • Currently in Pennsylvania, a driver who fails to remain at the scene of a crash in which a victim dies commits a third degree felony. The minimum jail time for this is one (1) year.
  • However, a driver who causes the death of another person and is convicted of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol commits a second degree felony, punishable by a minimum of three (3) years jail time.
  • This discrepancy in minimum jail time essentially incentivizes intoxicated drivers to flee the scene of the accident in order to sober up.
Whether any intoxicated drivers, having struck someone with their car, think about this incentive to flee isn't the point. The point is there is no good reason for the legal system to create such an incentive in the first place.

Fortunately, there is currently a bill in Harrisburg that seeks to correct this exact problem. HB 208 would close this loophole by increasing the hit-and-run minimum jail times to match that of a DUI fatality. The bill passed the House of Representatives on April 4, 2011. It was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 3rd. No further action has been taken.

Think Pennsylvania should not be encouraging intoxicated drivers to flee crash sites? Contact your State Senator and tell him or her that you support HB 208 and believe it should be brought out of committee. Following that link will allow you to send a letter your state senator, plus the leading 4 members of the Senate Judiciary Committee where the bill currently sits.

Note: We will be holding a candlelight vigil tomorrow (Tuesday) for Mr. Loper. Reminder and additional details tomorrow.

Some Statistics

Hit and run fatalities in Pennsylvania, 2007-2009:
  • Pedestrians killed by vehicles: 398
  • Pedestrians killed by vehicles in hit-and-runs: 64
  • Bicyclists killed by vehicles: 44
  • Bicyclists killed by vehicles in hit-and-runs: 6
Hit and run fatalities in Philadelphia, 2007-2009:
  • Pedestrians killed by vehicles: 96
  • Pedestrians killed by vehicles in hit-and-runs: 17
  • Bicyclists killed by vehicles in hit-and-runs: 0
Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration database