Tuesday, February 24, 2015

City of Los Angeles Taking Steps to Address High Number of Hit and Run Collisions, Failure to Apprehend Most Drivers who Flee the Scene

With recent legislation, the City of Los Angeles is addressing a growing safety issue for Californians, particularly pedestrians and cyclists – hit and run accidents.  Earlier this month the city council approved a measure to more effectively catch those who flee the scene of a car accident, only one-fifth of whom are arrested by the LAPD in connection with the offense, according to this Reuters story:

“Out of 40,000 car accidents in America's second-largest city, nearly half are classified as hit-and-runs, well above the national average, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.”

The city has agreed to move ahead with an information dissemination system where the details of an offending driver’s vehicle will go out to the public via social media, as well as to taxi drivers, some public transportation operators and to vehicle repair facilities that the offender might visit to address the damage to their vehicle.

The LA Times cited a 42% increase in hit and runs where a bicyclist was the victim over the decade spanning 2002 to 2012.  Although a hit and run conviction can bring with it prison time as well as thousands of dollars in fines, perpetrators of the hit and run are often not caught as shown by the police department’s statistics. Vehicle Code Section 20001, subsection (b) sets forth the penalty for leaving the scene of an accident which resulted in injury or death of a party who is not the fleeing driver:

“(b) (1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), a person who violates
subdivision (a) shall be punished by imprisonment in the state
prison, or in a county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine
of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000) nor more than ten
thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine.”

The state legislature has made previous attempts at combatting the hit and run problem state-wide, with several bills having been introduced that would widen the role of the current Amber Alert system, which, if passed, would use freeway signs to let motorists know that a vehicle involved in a collision has fled the scene. Governor Jerry Brown has vetoed these types of bills every time they have been brought up, fearing that this would be a strain on the current alert system, and therefore render it ineffective. 

San Diego also has reason to be concerned - statistics show that deaths from hit and runs in 2014 topped any other year in the past decade. That city is also taking steps to make the streets and sidewalks safer for pedestrians and cyclists.