A proposed piece of legislation increasing the penalties for drivers who leave the scene of an accident has passed in the Texas State Senate, and is now moving on to the House of Representatives.
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The bill changes the punishment for abandoning an accident from a third degree felony to a second degree felony. Under the current law, fleeing the scene of a Tarrant County car accident carries a much lighter penalty that drunk driving, meaning drivers who cause an accident while intoxicated have an incentive to leave and sober up. The bill would change the penalty scheme so that the punishments for the two offenses would be equal.
Hit-and-run accidents often leave victims in worse shape than many other accident victims. By fleeing the scene, a hit-and-run driver leaves an accident victim without immediate medical aid. Often, a delay in treatment can mean the difference between life and death. If the victim survives the accident, there is often only the victims medical insurance to rely on. There are no other means of pursuing reimbursement for medical bills or compensation for damages if the hit-and-run driver cannot be found.
The devastating consequences of a hit-and-run accident have motivated Texas lawmakers to create Senate Bill 275, which would close the current loophole and make leaving the scene of an accident just as serious of an offense as intoxication manslaughter. The hope is that more drivers will stay and render aid to their victims if they have no reason to flee the scene.
According to NBC-DFW, Austin Democratic Senator Kirk Watson introduced the bill in the Senate, where it passed unanimously. The Bill is now going to the House of Representatives for consideration. The new law would make fleeing the scene a second-degree felony. A driver who leaves an accident that causes an injury could be sentenced to as long as 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Hopefully, these harsh penalties decrease the number of hit-and-run accidents in Texas, and will encourage drivers to stop and call 911 after an accident. This will also give those who are injured or killed the ability to recover for their medical bills, or file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against the driver.