PHILADELPHIA. On Wednesday, the state Senate Transportation Committee will vote on a bill designed to strengthen penalties for hit-and-run incidents. Current law holds the minimum sentence for leaving the scene of an accident resulting in “serious bodily injury” is 90 days; for fatal incidents, the minimum sentence is now a year in prison.
Should the 13-person committee chaired by Sen. John C. Rafferty Jr. approve Senate Bill 522 as expected, it will go to the Appropriations Committee for review and the full senate for a vote. If passed, penalties for not stopping at the scene to render or call for aid would rise to one year and $1,000 in fines for injury and a mandatory-minimum of three years and $2,500 for fatal incidents. Both would qualify as third-degree felonies.
“This took way too long, but it renews my faith in the system. Maybe more people will stop and render aid like they should,” said Dolores Roberto, whose 12-year-old son Peter was struck and killed by a drunk hit-and-run driver on Thanksgiving 2004.
In the years since her son was killed – the driver later surrendered at a relative’s insistence – Roberto says she’s gone from optimistic to discouraged and back again with hope that the penalties would be increased. She senses that more public attention has gone toward cases since Kayla Peter’s death in 2005.
“Used to be that people didn’t really take notice till it effected their lives,” Roberto said. “That’s really just sad.”
Though they don’t sit on the Transportation Committee, hit-and-run legislation was co-sponsored by state Sens. Michael Stack and Lawrence Farnese, both of Philadelphia. Farnese noted that victims like Roberto's advocacy inspired him to action.