Get Involved: A Hit-and-Run Is Punished Less Harshly Than a DUI?

February 2012

Let me get this story straight: In Colorado, a driver hits cyclist. The cyclist lies busted on the pavement, bike snapped in two. The driver knows they’ve had too many beers and takes off—leaving the cyclist on the street. If the driver is looking out for his/her own best interests—and they can live with the conscience of abandoning an injured person—then fleeing the scene will actually dole out a less harsh punishment than a DUI charge. Huh? 

This may not make sense, but right now, it’s Colorado law.

House bill 12-1084 looks to change this, the “Hit-and-Run Loophole,” at the Colorado Legislature this session. If the bill passes, a hit-and-run accident inflicting serious bodily harm will lead to a more serious Class 4 felony rather than the current Class 5 felony. The bill would discard the incentive for drunk drivers to drive off and sober up before they are caught or turn themselves in. According to Dan Grunig, the executive director of Bicycle Colorado, $40,000 is expected to cover the costs for the first year of this potential law—a proverbial drop in the bucket when it comes to the state budget. (The price tag is because the Department of Corrections would need extra funds to keep inmates longer when they receive the lengthier Class 4 sentence.)

The bill heads to the House Judiciary Committee next week before making its way to the Appropriation Committee to deal with the financial aspects of the change. If all goes well, it will hit the House Floor for votes after that.

GET INVOLVED:

If you are a cyclist, or love a cyclist, a quick call to your district representative can help make the bill a priority. Also, if a hit-and-run drunk driving accident has impacted your life, contact Bicycle Colorado. Your personal stories can give names and faces to the victims, and be used to increase awareness of the "Hit-and-Run-Loophole" consequences. If you see a hit-and-run accident of any nature (car-bike, car-pedestrian, car-car) take note of the license plate, vehicle, and driver. If drivers know people are watching, they're less likely to take off. Read this for other ways to get involved with cycling issues.

—Image courtesy of John Haynes Photo