Tougher hit-and-run law nears passage in North Carolina

| 8/24/2005

The North Carolina House has unanimously approved a measure that would change the state’s hit-and-run law.

Representatives voted Tuesday, Aug. 23, to accept the measure agreed to by House and Senate negotiators. The compromise bill unanimously passed in the state’s Senate earlier in the month. It now moves to Gov. Mike Easley for this signature.

The existing state law prohibits the driver of a vehicle in an accident from driving away from the scene until police arrive. But it contains a loophole that allows a passenger to switch seats with the driver and drive away – with little threat of punishment, The Associated Press reported.

The new measure, HB217, was sponsored by Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, and would outlaw that action.

Under the bill, if the driver or any passengers involved in an accident that results in a death or serious injury move the vehicle before an officer authorizes it to be moved, they could be charged with a felony. If the accident caused significant property damage without serious injury, offenders would face misdemeanor charges.

Only the driver and a passenger who takes over the wheel could be criminally liable.

Exceptions would be made if someone leaves the scene to get medical attention or emergency help.