Public Hearing Address Hit-and-Run Incidents in Northeast Phila.
PHILADELPHIA, MARCH 11, 2010 — Citing hit-and-run incidents as a critical safety issue affecting Northeast Philadelphia, state Sen. Mike Stack today welcomed the Senate Transportation Committee public hearing at Nazareth Hospital to discuss ways to reduce these tragic incidents.
“We must do more to punish the cowardly motorists who have turned their vehicle into a lethal weapon and then abandon the injured or dying. We need to set up sound laws that deter this from happening and send a strong message that fleeing the scene will lead to serious repercussions,” Stack said. “Today’s hearing brought this problem in our community to light, but it’s a problem in every community. The committee received sound insight into what we as legislators can do to create better laws.”
The committee heard testimony from Dr. Bryce Templeton, a national board member of MADD and chair of the Southeastern MADD Affiliate; Lt. Anthony Sivo, patrol section commander of Pennsylvania State Police Troop K in Philadelphia; Capt. Michael Murphy, commanding officer of the Philadelphia Police Department’s Accident Investigation District and Deputy District Attorney Michael Barry.
Theresa Sautter, the mother of 2008 hit-and-run victim Marylee Otto, and Dolores Roberto, the mother of 2004 hit-and-run victim Peter Roberto, also testified.
“Their emotional speeches were powerful, and it took a lot of courage and strength for them to talk about the senseless losses of their innocent children,” Stack said. “We clearly need tougher guidelines so that grieving mothers like Theresa and Dolores have some sense of closure. Ideally, I want our laws to act as a deterrence.”
Hit-and-run incidents are particularly prevalent in Northeast Philadelphia. While the number of hit-and-run crashes involving injury has not changed much over the last three years citywide, it has steadily increased in the Northeast from 75 crashes in 2007 to 105 in 2009, according to Capt. Murphy’s testimony.
Several measures have been introduced to address this safety issue.
Sen. Stack’s legislation, Senate Bill 522, would toughen the penalties for hit and run drivers that flee the scene of an accident that causes injury or death.
If a victim suffers serious bodily injury, the penalty would increase from a 90-day minimum prison sentence to a minimum of two years in jail. If a victim dies, the penalty would increase from a minimum of one year to five years in jail.
Similarly, Senate Bill 1177 would also increase the penalties for hit-and-run drivers that leave the scene of an accident that causes injury or death. If a victim suffers serious bodily injury, the penalty would increase from a 90-day minimum prison sentence to a minimum of one year in jail and a $10,000 fine.
If a victim dies, the penalty would increase from a minimum of one-year to two years in jail and a $20,000 fine.
Another measure, Senate Bill 1049, would toughen the penalty for DUI hit-and-run incidents that cause serious bodily injury from 90 days to at least a one year in jail. Similarly, if a hit-and-run victim dies as a result of the incident and controlled substances or alcohol are involved, the mandatory minimum prison sentence would increase from one year to at least three years.
This measure addresses a sentencing disparity in the current law. Under current law, an impaired driver involved in a hit-and-run incident that results in injury or death receives the same mandatory minimum sentence as a hit-and-run driver who was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
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