New York bills attempt to deter staged wrecks, hit-and-runs

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Monday, May 19, 2014

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

The first bill targets people who stage wrecks. The Senate voted 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, said scam artists who commit vehicle insurance fraud cost the state billions of dollars in higher premiums, cause serious injuries and death to innocent victims.

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

He said that New York drivers shouldn’t 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.

Repeat offenders would face up to 15 years behind bars.

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.

S3547 awaits further consideration in the Assembly.

Another Senate-approved bill also addresses road safety. Sponsored by Sen. Martin Golden, R-Brooklyn, the bill is intended to crack down on hit-and-run drivers.

S2503 would increase the penalties for leaving the scene of an accident when a death, injury, or property damage occurs.

“These criminals show a blatant disregard for human life, and this bill increases the penalties to reflect the seriousness of their actions,” Golden stated.

Drivers who flee from the scene of an accident that resulted in death would face up to 15 years in prison. Incidents that result in serious injury could result in a seven-year prison term.

Offenders who leave the scene of an accident without stopping and/or reporting it, and causing property damage would face up to four years behind bars – up from one year.

The bill is in the Assembly Transportation Committee.

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