California law alerts drivers to hit-and-run incidents

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 10/19/2015

A new law in California would alert drivers and help identify and apprehend hit-and-run drivers.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill to require the California Highway Patrol to activate a “Yellow Alert” system under certain circumstances to find vehicles suspected in hit-and-run incidents.

The state’s existing network of freeway signs would be used to broadcast information when there is a sufficient description of the vehicle or the identity of the suspect is known.

Previously AB8, the new law limits use of the system to the area where the incident occurred and will only be used when the hit-and-run results in death or serious injury. The CHP could also prioritize activation of the system based on certain factors, if multiple alerts are requested.

According to a bill analysis, an estimated 20,000 hit-and-run incidents occur each year in Los Angeles. About 4,000 of those incidents involved injuries or death.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Glendale, said the incidents have gotten out of hand.

“It’s gotten to the point to where not a single week goes by without seeing another hit-and-run tragedy occurring,” Gatto said in recent remarks. “People flee because they know there’s little chance that they’ll get caught.”

The yellow alert system is the fourth freeway alert notice to be activated in the state. The other alerts are AMBER, which gives drivers information on child abductions; Blue, which notifies drivers about a violent attack on law enforcement; and Silver, which alerts drivers to a person at least 65 years of age who is missing under unexplained or suspicious circumstances.

The new law takes effect Jan. 1, 2016.

Similar new rules in Maryland and Nevada cover anyone who leaves the scene of a wreck where serious injury or substantial property damage occurred.

The Nevada law authorizes a minimum of two years behind bars and as long as 20 years in prison with no chance of probation for hit-and-run offenders.

The laws in both states took effect Oct. 1.

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

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