Under current state law, drunk drivers who flee the scene of accidents before authorities arrive are able to take that free time to sober up before they’re caught or surrender to police. This evasive maneuver increases the chances they’ll be charged with lesser crimes because it can’t be proven they were drunk at the time of the accident.
In effect, the law as stated and enforced now enables what would otherwise be guilty drunk drivers to predetermine lesser charges. That, in my opinion, is a miscarriage of justice.
My Assembly minority colleagues and I have introduced legislation that would toughen the penalties for motorists who hit, run and hide.
The Hit-Run-and-Hide Protection Act has been introduced by my Assembly minority colleague, Jim Hayes of Amherst, and is co-sponsored by other minority Assembly members and me. The bill, if passed into law, would increase the penalty for leaving the scene of a fatal auto accident to a Class D felony and carry a maximum prison term of seven years. This proposed penalty would equal the prison sentences that can be imposed on people convicted of vehicular manslaughter.
It is our intention that the threat of this severe penalty will encourage drunk and sober drivers alike to remain at accident scenes, where they could also offer assistance and comfort to the victims.
This bill, if passed into law, would generate serious consequences for people who show no regard for their accident victims. It is our hope this law would help bring closure and justice to victims and their families.
No one should ever have to be told that a loved one has been struck and killed by a vehicle, especially one driven by a person who is intoxicated or who fled the scene. The Assembly needs to adopt this legislation so motorists won’t leave the scenes of horrific and senseless tragedies.
Seneca County Sheriff Leo Connolly agrees, "All too often we get to the scene of an accident to find that the motorist who caused the accident has left the scene. In most cases this can be attributed to a drunk driver who has left the scene to avoid punishment for D.W.I." Connolly said, "Under this proposed new law, co-sponsored by Assemblyman Kolb, the guilty can no longer hit, run and hide."
This bill has been introduced before in the Assembly, but it has never come to a vote despite its earlier passage by the state Senate.
With the full support of the community, victims’ rights groups and Assembly minority, I will continue fighting for passage of this bill into law.