New York bill attempts to deter staged wrecks

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 4/6/2016

Two bills in the New York State Legislature cover issues that concern truckers and other highway users.

The first bill targets people who stage wrecks. The Senate voted on Monday, April 4, to send a bill to the Assembly that would dole out significant punishment for people who commit or assist in the fraud.

Sen. James Seward, R-Oneonta, has called out scam artists who commit vehicle insurance fraud. He said the scammers cost insurance companies and their policyholders $1 billion annually, and cause serious injuries and death to innocent victims.

“Auto insurance fraud has become a big business that threatens the safety of motorists, drives up the cost of auto insurance for consumers, and hurts our economy,” Seward said in a previous news release.

He adds that New York drivers should not have to drive down the road wondering whether someone might purposefully drive into them for the purpose of engaging in insurance fraud.

Dubbed “Alice’s Law,” the bill would make it a crime to stage an accident with intent to commit insurance fraud. The felony crime would be punishable by up to seven years in prison. Offenders convicted of insurance fraud within the previous five years would face up to 15 years behind bars. If the crime results in serious injury or death, offenders could be locked up for as long as 25 years.

The bill is named for Alice Ross. The 71-year-old wife and grandmother was killed in March 2003 as a result of a staged accident in Queens. According to reports, the vehicle she was driving was hit and then struck a tree.

S3511 awaits further consideration in the Assembly.

A separate bill is intended to improve safety along roadways where emergency personnel are present.

Sponsored by Sen. Fred Akshar, R-Colesville, the bill would set a speed limit of 20 mph below the posted speed limit at and near the scene of roadside emergencies.

Affected areas would be defined as 500 feet leading up to and immediately preceding the accident scene.

Violators would face loss of driving privileges for 60 days.

A public and driver education program would also be set up to inform drivers about the rule.

The bill, S6666, is in the Senate Transportation Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New York, click here.

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