Mike Gatto (D – Los Angeles) introduced legislation in the California Assembly this week to mandate an administrative six month suspension of driving privileges for those convicted of misdemeanor hit and run. Misdemeanor hit and runs are property-damage-only collisions. The penalty for felony hit and run — anywhere from 90 days in jail to five years in the Big House, or a fine ranging from $1000 to $10,000 depending on the circumstances — remains unchanged.
In Gatto’s home district, 48% of all reported collisions in recent years involve a driver who leaves the scene. About half of all such cases remain unsolved.
When drivers of hit and run crimes are eventually found, many of them say they fled the scene because they already don’t have a license, most often because of their immigration status. Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill last year allowing licenses for undocumented immigrants primarily because of California’s hit and run epidemic.
Although AB 1532 doesn’t change the penalty for hit and runs which result in injury or death, felony hit and runs remains a serious problem for the state and its most vulnerable road users. In 2012, hit and run collisions result in death or serious injury to nearly 100 pedestrians, two dozen cyclists, and 40 motorists in Los Angeles. Statewide in 2011, hit and run collisions killed 131 people, half of whom were pedestrians or cyclists. Most recent cyclist fatalities in Santa Cruz County involved a hit and run driver; the 2012 death of 39 year old Joshua Laven near Davenport remains unsolved. Laven survived the initial collision and lingered for several hours before he succumbed to his injuries.
- Track AB 1532 using California’s Legislative Info website.
- Commentary by Biking In L.A..
- Streetsblog L.A.: New Gatto Legislation Requires License Suspension for All Hit and Run Drivers.
- For a fun insight, look at the real time feed for CHP dispatches statewide and look on the page for misdemeanor “Hit and Run No Injuries.” As I type this on mid-morning, there are eight active dispatches right now.
A tiny slap on the wrist.
What we need is automatic suspension of license for any driver involved in an injury accident until the police investigation is completed. Restoration of the license should only happen after acquittal. We have far too many “probably bad” drivers with licenses already—driving is a privilege, not a right, and the privilege should be automatically suspended in any injury accident.