Yesterday, hundreds of cyclists rode in Pittsburgh to honor of fallen riders. The 11-mile Ride of Silence focused on Penn Avenue, a location that has proven especially dangerous in the past few months. Today, a different type of effort is being made to protect those who are most vulnerable on our roads.
Effective today, Pennsylvania has stiffer penalties for fatal hit-and-run accidents. Under the new law, those found at fault in a hit-and-run-accident face up to 10 years behind bars and $25,000 in fines, increased from seven years and $15,000. The state's minimum sentence of one year won't change, but the crime has been upgraded from a third-degree offense to a second-degree felony. The law is intended to make drivers involved in hit-and-run accidents stop and help instead of driving away.
Furthermore, sentencing discrepancies under our old law gave drunk drivers involved in fatal hit-and-run accidents an incentive to leave the scene and turn themselves in later when they were no longer intoxicated and the penalties were less severe. The new law closes this loophole and increases the penalty for at-fault drivers involved in hit-and-run accidents to match the punishment for drunk drivers.
This law is an important step in protecting motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. It's especially meaningful in light of the recent string of bicycle accidents in Pittsburgh and the increased pedestrian and bike traffic now that school is in session. I'd like to encourage everyone to obey all of our traffic laws and share the road safely.