Hit-and-run alert system being considered by City Council

A new City Council bill would create an alert system to help catch drivers involved in hit-and-run collisions that have …

A new City Council bill would create an alert system to help catch drivers involved in hit-and-run collisions that have caused death or serious injury.

Manhattan Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, chair of the Council’s Transportation Committee, will introduce the legislation on Wednesday after rallying in City Hall Park with transit advocates, elected officials and family and friends of victims.

“Hit-and-run drivers usually flee the scene of a crash because they think they can get away with their crime,” said Rodriguez. “It’s up to our police force to prove these drivers wrong and this bill will now put more eyes and ears on the street to assist them.”

The legislation would establish a system similar to the existing 311 or Amber alerts. Within 12 hours after the determination that a hit-and-run causing death or serious injury had occurred, a city agency would send out alerts via text or email messages, television and radio broadcasts and telephone calls, but leaves room for the city to use “any appropriate means” to get its alert out.

It would also call for the city to outline protocol for alerting media, medical and community organizations of the crimes. Though the bill doesn’t detail the language of the alerts, Rodriguez said that he’d like the messages to include offenders’ vehicle makes and models as well as other identifying features.

Facing an uptick in hit-and-run collisions in the city, this will be the second piece of related legislation that Rodriguez will be introducing to catch offenders. Earlier in January, Rodriguez unveiled legislation that would create a reward of up to $1,000 for anyone who provides information leading to the arrest of a driver who fled the scene after killing or seriously injuring someone.

Out of the 38 fatal hit-and-runs in 2016, 13 arrests were made, according to Police Department data. This year, there have been five fatal hit-and-runs—four of which involved pedestrians, the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives found.

“Each time a hit-and-run driver gets away, it increases the chances that another innocent New Yorker gets struck down,” said Paul Steely White, executive director at Transportation Alternatives.

Sarah Kaufman, assistant director for technology programming at the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation, reserved judgement on the bill’s potential until she’s heard more about how the alert system would be implemented..

She cautioned that alerts should geo-target recipients to ensure that the right people are getting the message.

“Otherwise you risk alert fatigue,” she said. “People could stop subscribing to these important alerts and could miss critical information.”

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