After a slew of tragic hit-and-run collisions this year, including one involving a popular skateboarder left paralyzed in Santa Monica, a recent bill has garnered recognition for its stringent cause to hunt down and hold fugitive drivers accountable.
The legislation in question, Assembly Bill 1532, seeks to add a driver’s license suspension to those convicted of hit and runs, including incidents in which injuries are deemed “minor.” Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) is the bill’s lead author and main sponsor.
"A violation," the bill reads, "would be a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for 6 months, or by a fine not exceeding $1,000, or by both, and the Department of Motor Vehicles would be required to immediately suspend the driver’s license of a convicted driver for 6 months."
The California Public Defenders Association (CPDA) has argued against the proposal. The group has said that under existing laws, charges have been appropriate -- no matter how major or minor injuries have been.
The bill comes during a year in which fatal and near-fatal hit and runs have skyrocketed. Most recently, skateboarder Ian Imes, 20, was struck by a driver at the intersection of 17th and Marine streets on April 5.
Officials from the Santa Monica Police Department said the suspect driver was either in a Buick Regal or Chevrolet Caprice -- both older models and possibly white. They have yet to be found.
Imes is recovering in a hospital, where doctors have said he might not walk again. A support group has launched on Facebook and the fundraising site Give Forward to collect donations for Imes’ already astronomical health bills.
"Tears of joy. He's breathing on his own," his mother told NBC4 Wednesday of her son, who is paralyzed from the waist down and unable to speak. "I said to my son that I was going to cry the day he walks again."
Shortly after Imes’ collision, mother Genevieve Ann Hall, 34, of Huntington Beach, was broadsided and killed in a separate hit-and-run crash on April 8.
She was riding her bike when a late-model Chevrolet Impala hit her and left her to die in the middle of the road near the busy intersection of Beach Boulevard and Utica Avenue. That driver has yet to be found, too.
Gatto has been toiling to take hit-and-run drivers off the road; he also passed AB 184, a bill that essentially gives officials more time to hunt down fleeing drivers. According to his website, there are nearly 20,000 hit-and-run incidents reported annually -- with 4,000 leading to injury or death.
After its proposal in January, the California Assembly’s Public Safety Committee voted 7-0 on March 11 in favor of AB 1532. It was then referred to the Assembly’s Transportation Committee, which voted 13-1 on March 24 in its favor.
The bill still has to pass in front of the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee and the full Assembly, as well as the state Senate and its committees later this year.
NBC4's Jane Yamamoto contributed to this report.