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CA bill seeks to address ongoing problem of hit-and-run accidents

A new bill could improve resolution of California hit-and-run cases by letting authorities use the Amber Alert system to catch hit-and-run suspects.

Hit-and-run accidents can have devastating consequences. Often, victims suffer needlessly serious injuries because they do not receive immediate medical attention. It can also be challenging for victims to secure appropriate compensation for their injuries, since many hit-and-runs go unresolved. Fortunately, a new bill that would use alerts to find the drivers responsible for serious hit-and-run accidents could help ensure better outcomes for accident victims in San Francisco.

‘Yellow Alert’ system proposed

The Los Angeles Times reports that the bill would allow law enforcement authorities to use the Amber Alert system to post “Yellow Alerts,” which would share information about suspects in hit-and-run accidents. Specifically, authorities could post license plate numbers and vehicle descriptions on freeway signs near the scene of accidents that resulted in severe injury or death.

The use of this system would be limited. In addition to excluding less serious accidents, the bill requires authorities to have solid information about the suspect before posting an alert. Without knowing the suspect’s identity, a confirmed license plate number or a description of the vehicle and a partial license plate number, authorities cannot issue an alert.

Still, the system could have a significant impact on the resolution of the most severe hit-and-run accidents. In Denver, where a similar alert system was launched in 2012, the system has helped authorities catch hit-and-run drivers in 76 percent of the cases that qualified for an alert. In contrast, in Los Angeles, just 20 percent of reported hit-and-run cases were resolved between 2008 and 2012, and arrests were made in less than half of those cases.

An ongoing epidemic

Hit-and-run accidents have become a significant problem in California and across the country. The following statistics from The San Francisco Chronicle help illustrate the extent of the issue:

In California, hit-and-run fatalities rose 11 percent from 2009 to 2011, the most recent year for which data is available. In 2011, 242 lives were lost in these accidents.
Nationally, the number of fatal hit-and-run accidents rose 14 percent, suggesting a broader problem that transcends state laws or driving habits.
In 2012, hit-and-run accidents played a role in one-fifth of pedestrian fatalities.
In California, it’s not uncommon to see headlines about serious injuries or deaths resulting from hit-and-run accidents, such as the Halloween accident that claimed three lives. The new bill could deter drivers from fleeing after accidents by raising the likelihood of eventual apprehension. By increasing case resolutions, the bill could also lead to more just outcomes for accident victims.

Outlook for bill

Despite the threat that hit-and-run accidents pose to Californians, the bill may ultimately fail to pass. A similar bill was introduced last year, and Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed it due to concerns about overburdening the Amber Alert system. This year’s bill could meet a similar fate.

Regardless of whether the bill passes, hit-and-run accident victims usually face unusual challenges in documenting their cases and securing adequate compensation, whether from the responsible driver or through personal insurance. In these situations, accident victims may want to consider speaking to a personal injury attorney about working toward a favorable resolution.

Keywords: hit-and-run, accident, injury