The driver of the minivan that hit bicyclist Damian Kevitt in Griffith Park last year never slowed down, even as Kevitt’s leg was crushed and he was dragged 600 feet down a highway onramp.
The van sped off onto the 5 Freeway and hasn’t been seen again.
It is the type of aftermath that Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) hopes to prevent with a new system of alerts that would notify the public when authorities are searching for a vehicle suspected of being involved in a hit-and-run that results in serious injury or death.
Kevitt joined Gatto and bike advocates Wednesday in front of City Hall to support Assembly Bill 47, which would allow the California Highway Patrol to use the existing Emergency Alert System to send localized messages to highway billboards that now carry Amber Alerts when a child is thought to have been abducted.
"[The alert system] could have been the difference between that individual being caught or not,” Kevitt said, referring to his collision. “But more importantly, having this system in place deters people from doing it in the first place.”
The Los Angeles City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti have also voiced support for the bill, which is modeled after a similar alert program that began in Denver, Colo.
There are 20,000 hit-and-runs a year in Los Angeles, including around 100 that are fatal, said Councilman Mitchell Englander.
He said the proposed “yellow alerts” would be sent out two to three times a week on average and only if law enforcement officials had specific information about a suspect or their vehicle.
Law enforcement officials can already send out “blue alerts” if a law enforcement officer is attacked or a “silver alert” when an elderly person is reported missing.
“It is a big step in response to a big problem,” said Eric Bruins, planning and policy director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.
The bill is currently in committee and has until the end of August to pass both houses of the legislature.