Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Better Justice: HB 93 - Traffic Violations Amendments
A couple years ago, some constituents came to me who had friends that had died in traffic accidents. The drivers that were cited for the accident were issued a "failure to yield" ticket for less than $100 and everyone went about their business as usual. Given the gravity of the outcome of the accidents, we pursued some remedies by trying to enhance penalties on lethal incidents of moving violation on left hand turns. That effort failed at committee due to its lack of consistency across the spectrum of traffic violations.
We let the issue sit for a couple years as we stewed on the question of how to address this perceived inequity. Then while in a conversation with the Attorney General's office this year, we had a breakthrough.
The problem with accidents is that officers are required to cite someone at the scene and issue a ticket. Sometimes, in major accidents, the parties to the accident are unconscious, in the ambulance, or sometimes deceased. Instead of asking officers to cite someone at the scene of a fatal or major injury accident, we determined it would be better for them to collect all the witness and party testimony and then turn that in to prosecuting attorney to review.
This accomplishes a couple of things. First, it lets a third party with fresh eyes review the file to see if there were any circumstances that may have contributed to the crash and that may require further attention. Such examples could be distracted driving, texting, etc. If there are, the attorney can issue a citation or charge accordingly. If not, and most accidents would likely fall into this category, the proper citation, if any at all, would be issued. Second, this change allows the officer to focus less on finding fault and issuing a ticket and more on gathering good information at the scene through witness interviews and evidence gathering.
Another provision included in this bill stipulates that a prosecuting attorney would also review any file where an accident is officer involved. This would allow an impartial set of eyes to view this case without any undue pressure by the responding officer to avoid citing his co-worker involved in the accident.
Here is a copy of the bill: