Each legislative session thousands of bills and amendments are introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature. Only a fraction become law, and an even smaller portion receive wide media coverage.
These bills impact the lives of people living in Pennsylvania every day. Each week The Sentinel will highlight one bill that has not received widespread attention.
About the bill
Drivers have a duty to stop and render aid at the scene of a crash, and a state bill would place the same responsibility on passengers.
House Bill 242 is designed to help prevent deaths like that of Steven Bacon of Bradford County, according to a co-sponsorship memo from Rep. Tina Pickett, R-Towanda.
Bacon was riding a bicycle when he was killed in a March 22, 2007, crash in Ashland, New York. Neither the driver nor any of the passengers in the vehicle that killed him contacted police, and his body was not found until the next day, according to Pickett.
“Such behavior is unconscionable, committed by individuals devoid of human decency,” she wrote.
Pickett’s bill would only apply to crashes involving injury or death. In those cases, passengers would be required to notify police within 24 hours if the driver did not stop to give information and render aid.
A violation would be a felony, carrying a minimum prison term of one year and a fine of $2,500 if the victim dies, and a minimum prison term of 90 days and a $1,000 fine if the victim is seriously injured.
Those penalties would be the same as those currently imposed on drivers, according to Pickett.
The proposed legislation has been nicknamed Steven’s Law in honor of Bacon, and a Facebook group has advocated for the bill in both Pennsylvania and New York for several years. Pickett has introduced versions of the bill since at least the 2011-12 term. A companion bill sponsored by Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Williamsport, passed the Pennsylvania Senate in November 2015 but did not become law.
Some states, such as Virginia, already require passengers to report hit-and-run crashes. Virginia’s law only applies if the passenger is at least 16 years old.
Pickett’s bill would not extend responsibility to passengers when crashes only involve damage to property. For drivers, hit-and-run crashes involving damage to an occupied vehicle are punishable by a $2,500 fine or up to one year of imprisonment. Hit-and-run crashes involving unattended property are punishable by a $300 fine or up to 90 days of imprisonment.