Assemblyman Lentol, Acting Brooklyn DA Gonzalez, Other Elected Officials, and Advocates Announce the Hit-and-Run Prevention Act--a Series of Initiatives to Save Lives

September 7, 2017

Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol (D-North Brooklyn) was joined today by Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez to announce the Hit-and-Run Prevention Act, a series of initiatives that will reduce the number of hit-and-run incidents. The bill will be introduced in the upcoming legislative session that begins in January.

In the last two years, over 100 hit-and-runs in NYC have resulted in serious physical injury or death. Serious physical injury can include lost limbs or severe organ damage.

Hit-and-run incidents can be reduced by educating the public on the severity of the penalties for hit-and-runs, while also stressing the importance that minutes can have in saving someone’s limbs or life. The minutes after an incident are crucial to ensure that an individual can 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,” said Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol. “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. I know my colleagues on both sides of the aisle know the importance of saving people’s lives.”

“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,” said Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. “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. 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 include three initiatives:

  1. Public Education Campaign

    1. DCJS would be appropriated $1,000,000 to establish a public information campaign. The campaign will inform the public about the law surrounding hit-and-runs, including potential jail time. The campaign will also stress the importance of staying on the scene and contacting authorities, as a person’s limbs or life can be saved. Additionally, the campaign will inform the public that, regardless of whether they are intoxicated or sober, the crime for leaving the scene will be the same. Therefore, stopping and helping the victim is the best choice.

  2. Hit-and-Run Alert System

    1. a. The bill would authorize the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) to establish and administer a statewide alert system for hit and run vehicles. The alert would be requested by law enforcement agencies when the hit-and-run incident results in serious physical injury or death. DCJS will determine the criteria for issuing an alert.

  3. Close Hit-and-Run Intoxication Loophole

    1. The bill would increase the penalty for leaving the scene of a crime resulting in serious physical injury from a Class E Felony to a Class D Felony. Similarly, the penalty for leaving the scene of a crime resulting in death would be increased from a Class D Felony to a Class C Felony.
    2. Previously, if an individual was severely intoxicated and involved in a collision that resulted in serious physical injury or death and the individual stayed at the scene they would be charged with a more serious offense than if they were not intoxicated and fled the scene, such as Vehicular Assault 1st Degree, Vehicular Manslaughter 1st Degree, Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI). This creates a loophole in the law, whereby people that are severely intoxicated are incentivized to leave the scene because they can receive a lesser charge.
    3. The goal of the law is to punish an individual who leaves the scene of an accident instead of staying to help the victim, regardless of whether they are sober or intoxicated. The penalties if you stay at the scene or leave the scene will be the same.

"This bill will save lives. I want to thank Assemblyman Lentol for including a hit-and-run alert system in this legislation, so that more perpetrators of this crime are caught. This law will require an increase in penalties for those that take a bad situation and make it worse by running away," said Assemblyman David Buchwald.

“I have long advocated through my legislation A. 3921 for a harsher penalty for individuals who leave the scene of an incident without reporting it to authorities. The increased penalty provided in this legislation will serve as a cautionary deterrent and for hit-and-run incidents in New York City, especially those that result in serious injury or death of innocent victims. Staten Island has especially seen its fair share of this irresponsible practice and it’s time that would-be offenders are made aware there are consequences to their actions,” said Assemblyman Michael J. Cusick.

“Hit and Run crashes are completely avoidable and we have seen an increase trend in communities across the city. More vigilance not only from law enforcement agencies but also from civilians is crucial in prevention of loss. Comprehensive legislation is now an urgent matter to effectively address this issue Statewide and Citywide. Today, we are collaborating to push legislative measures that will aim for immediate prevention of these heinous acts through education, awareness, enforcement, and accountability. One life loss on our streets is one to many and today we stand for solutions,” said Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa.

“I commend Assemblyman Lentol and District Attorney Gonzalez for kick-starting this initiative, and I support their desire to end irresponsible and reckless Hit-And-Run crimes,” said Assemblyman Andrew Raia. “Accidents happen, but the choices we make after those accidents define us. We must take responsibility for those choices, and I support increasing the penalty for those who make poor ones.”

“We applaud this crucial action by our state lawmakers, which will eliminate the perverse incentive under current law for drunk drivers to leave the scene of a crash,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “The $1 million allocated for public education is essential to making sure every New Yorker knows you can't evade responsibility for your actions when driving, and that there truly is no excuse for a hit-and-run.”

“In a crash, whether the driver leaves the scene can mean the difference between life and death,” said Amy Cohen, founding member of Families for Safe Streets. “For families who have lost a loved one in a hit-and-run crash, it is absolutely agonizing to have to wonder what might have happened if only the driver had stayed and called for help, and this new law brings us closer to a day in which no more New Yorkers will have to suffer this grief.”