Prosecutors in Harris County are seeking changes in laws regarding drivers who leave the scene of an accident in the Houston area, a city that sees millions of drivers. If they succeed, points and jail time could be the result for people who don't wait.
District Attorney Patricia Lykos and Assistant District Attorney Scott Durfee are calling for sanctions via the state legislature that would up the fines and penalties, currently the equivalent of a traffic ticket for collisions causing less than $200 in damage and a misdemeanor for more flagrant instances.
"The driver causes bodily injury with a deadly weapon (a vehicle) and thereafter intentionally chooses to leave the victim dead or bleeding on the side of the road," they wrote in an opinion piece in the Houston Chronicle. "The punishment for such conduct should reflect the callous indifference to humanity exhibited by such drivers. It currently does not."
Further analysis by the paper found that hit-and-run accidents had been responsible for 100 deaths in Harris County in the past three years.
Part of the prospect of increasing the penalties is to get drivers who might consider fleeing the scene of an accident out of fear into defensive driving courses where they would be able to find out the penalties of their actions. Lykos and Durfee add that "hard cases" are unlikely to change without harsher penalties.
However, the overwhelming majority of drivers don't want to harm anyone else on the road; they may however be frightened of the effects of a mistake they made.
Limiting the number of people who make the mistake is a goal that is being reached through a lot of different methods. Some are using Texas online defensive driving schools
to make the pitch to help others out. But as the NBC affiliate in Dallas-Fort Worth is showing, the media can play a role, too.
They recently ran a piece on Tia Mosely, a woman who was struck while on the shoulder of I-35. Police offered a tipline to help people who may have an idea of what happened to Ms. Mosely. Lubbock TV stations have done the same, with KCBD calling for a man who allegedly caused injuries in a hit-and-run to three family members.
New legislation would likely reduce the number of people who choose, by fear or lack of feeling, to leave the scene of an accident, but the attention the practice is gaining in Texas media outlets may not eradicate it completely.
Practicing defensive driving
is a key to staying safe on the roads, but while Texans may be advocates for personal responsibility, they can also do wonders by keeping a notepad or something similar on hand. If you see a car cause an accident and can get the plate number, consider pulling over and calling 911. You might provide some relief to the family of people who may be injured, and give police the chance to ascertain the driver's guilt.