Gatto Bill Would Force Hit-and-Run Offenders Off California Roadways

By On January 22, 2014

Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Burbank) continued his efforts to curb the epidemic of hit-and-run offenses in Southern California, by introducing legislation that increases the penalties for people who leave the scene of an accident.

Gatto’s bill, AB 1532, would expand hit-and-run penalties to include automatic license revocation for motorists who flee the scene of any accident involving another person, even if the victim’s injuries are minor.  Right now, there are few consequences for hit-and-run offenders whose victims are lucky enough to walk away with only minor injuries.  Current law creates serious consequences, including license revocation, for individuals who commit a hit-and-run that results in death or serious bodily injury.

“The only way to know if you hurt someone is to stop.  The only way to get someone medical help is to stop,” said Assemblyman Gatto.  “Allowing drivers who don’t stop to keep their license, adds insult to their victim’s injuries.”

Eric Bruins, Planning and Policy Director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, noted that bicyclists and pedestrians are particularly vulnerable to hit-and-run collisions.  “Stopping and rendering aid after a collision is the most basic duty of a motorist,” said Bruins.  “Failing to do so can be the difference between scrapes and bruises and a serious injury or fatality.  Anyone who flees the scene of an accident has demonstrated in the most cowardly way possible that they do not have the judgment necessary to keep their driving privileges.”

AB 1532 is a continuation of efforts by Assemblyman Gatto to address the epidemic of hit-and-runs in Los Angeles County and across California.  Last year, Gatto authored AB 184, which extended the statute of limitations to prosecute hit-and-run drivers.  The Los Angeles Police Department records 20,000 hit-and-run crashes are recorded annually.  And State data shows that 4,000 hit-and-run incidents a year in Los Angeles lead to injury or death.  2014 has already been a deadly year, as a 24-year-old veterinary student was killed in a hit-and-run in Northridge just last week.

Other hit-and-run victims are continuing the healing process.  Damian Kevitt was struck by a mini-van while on his bicycle and dragged more than a quarter-mile down the Interstate 5 Freeway in Los Angeles last February.  The collision resulted in dozens of broken bones and the amputation of one of Kevitt’s legs.  Kevitt recently announced that he will be finishing the ride he started last year at an event on April 27, 2014 to raise awareness for hit-and-run victims and challenged athletes.   The suspect who hit him remains at large.

“AB 1532 will give victims of hit-and-runs solace, knowing that cowards who drive recklessly, and purposefully avoid responsibility for their actions, are no longer driving the streets,” said Assemblyman Gatto.  “This is a sensible fix to the law that will lead people to think twice before leaving the scene of an accident.”