Bill would step up legal action against hit-and-run drivers
Anyone who drives off after hitting another vehicle and injuring someone would find themselves the subject of intensive manhunts under a bill that won preliminary approval in the Colorado House on Tuesday.
The measure, HB1191, would operate similarly to the more well-known Amber Alert, which uses the media and other sources when a child is abducted.
This system, created in Denver in 2012 and now operating in at least one other Colorado city, would do the same for hit-and-run drivers, but only in the case of serious bodily injury or death, said Rep. Kathleen Conti, R-Littleton, who introduced the bill with Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction.
“This will assist our law enforcement in the apprehension of the folks that would flee the scene of a serious bodily injury or fatality accident,” Conti said.
The program was started after Denver man Jose Medina, a 21-year-old parking valet, was killed by a hit-and-run driver in January 2011. A cab driver who witnessed the accident wrote down the license plate number of the driver and alerted police, who later made an arrest.
The Denver program, which has only been used a dozen times, alerts area radio and television stations, and posts messages on Denver Public Works electronic message signs with whatever information is available identifying the driver.
Conti said that of the 11,000 hit-and-run accidents in Denver in the past two years the program has been in operation, about 500 involved fatal or serious injuries. Of those, only 13 had witnesses who saw those accidents and were able to report information to police.
“What this bill does is, it says, ‘If you do a hit and run and you’ve seriously injured somebody, or God forbid, killed them, your name will be in lights all over the state,’” said Rep. Daniel Kagan, D-Cherry Hills Village. “So don’t even think about hit-and-run driving. You’re going to get caught.”
The measure requires a final House vote, which could come as early as today, before heading to the Senate for more debate.