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Gatto gains support for "Yellow Alert" hit-and-run bill

A proposed state bill by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) that would utilize digital signs along freeways typically used for displaying Amber Alerts in order to help identify hit-and-run suspects earned support from the Los Angeles City Council.

AB 47, also referred to as Yellow Alert, would allow agencies like the Los Angeles and Glendale Police Departments to provide the license plate number and make of the vehicle to the California Highway Patrol, which would authorize displaying the information on freeway signs.

PHOTOS: Gatto holds press conference on hit-and-run driver laws

Gatto, who represents Glendale, Burbank, La Cañada as well as parts of Los Angeles, has written additional pending aimed at automatically suspending the licenses of motorists arrested for hit-and-runs.

“One of the worst things humans can do to another human is to leave them on the side of the road to die,” Gatto said during a press conference outside of Los Angeles City Hall Wednesday. “It’s time for our laws to reflect our values.”

Last year, the Los Angeles Police Department reported 20,000 hit-and-runs, with about a fifth of them resulting in injuries or death to the victim. Nearly half of the number of accidents in the city are hit-and-runs, whereas the national average is only 11%.

In Glendale, police are still looking for the driver that struck and seriously injured 75-year-old Leleh Isskhanian last year at Western Avenue and Glenoaks Boulevard.

Yellow Alert is based on a similar program implemented in Denver that helped boost the number of felony hit-and-run arrests.

“We have the existing infrastructure, it makes sense for us to use it,” Gatto said. “If you commit a hit-and-run, your license is going to be broadcast on our freeways.”

Given the high number of hit-and-runs reported in the Los Angeles area, only the make, license plate number or partial license plate numbers in felony crashes where someone is killed or seriously injured would be displayed on digital freeway signs, Gatto said.

Gatto was joined by Los Angeles Councilman Mitch Englander, who wrote a resolution in support of AB 47, and Damian Kevitt, a cyclist whose right leg was partially amputated in February 2013 after he was struck by a hit-and-run driver near Griffith Park.

Since recovering from his injury, Kevitt has devoted time to speaking and working with government officials and how to combat the issue.

He said although police and politicians are working harder to identify and arrest hit-and-run suspects, the person that can most prevent the crime is the person behind the wheel.

“Besides every other legislation and enforcement, there needs to be a moment of just thought,” Kevitt said.

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