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North Brooklyn Assemblymember Lentol proposes new hit-and-run bill

September 7, 2017 By Paul Frangipane Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Assemblymember Joseph Lentol, right, announces the Hit-and-Run Prevention Act, supported by Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, left. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane.
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As kids take to the trains and traverse the streets on the first day of school, on Thursday, Assemblymember Joseph Lentol proposed a new law to crack down on drivers of hit-and-runs.

The bill, which will be officially introduced in January, highlights three initiatives including stopping a drunk-driving loophole that currently gives drivers a reason to flee.

“The law actually incentivizes people to run,” Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said at a press conference. “We’ve seen this happen time and time again.”

The current law charges drunk drivers who stay at the scene a more serious offense than if they were sober and fled.

The new law would increase the penalty of fleeing from a Class E felony to Class D felony and incidents resulting in death from a D to a C, yielding a maximum of 15 years in jail.

There have been 21 hit-and-run deaths citywide so far this year, according to Julia Kite of Transportation Alternatives.

“It’s outrageous how often this happens in our city,” Gonzalez said.

In 2016, there were 60 hit-and-runs resulting in serious injury or death citywide, according to Gonzalez, with 15 deaths in Brooklyn.

The law would also develop an amber alert system for suspected vehicles in collisions and would assign $1 million to a public education campaign to teach people about hit-and-run penalties

“This bill is about equalizing the penalty for those kinds of crimes,” Lentol said. “If we pass this bill into law, the good drivers will know that they’d better not hit and run.”

An 8-year-old child walking near East 31st Street and Kings Highway in Marine Park was struck by a vehicle on May 20 and came away with a broken arm. The driver fled and the case is still under investigation, according to a Brooklyn DA spokeswoman.

John Paul Guerrero was also a victim of a hit-and-run when he was struck and killed in East New York on Dec. 19, 2016. A man was charged but the charges were dropped when witnesses identified the driver as a woman, news reports said. No one is currently charged in the case.

“The $1 million allocated for public education is essential to making sure every New Yorker knows you can’t evade responsibility for your action when driving, and that there is truly no excuse for a hit-and-run,” Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives Paul Steely White said in a statement.

Lentol is hopeful the bill will pass in the state Senate but gave it a 50/50 chance of passing in the Assembly.

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