Harford County Delegate Wayne Norman (District 35-A) announced today that he will introduce legislation to update and strengthen Maryland’s motor vehicle laws with respect to hit-and-run driving offenses.
The legislation, which will be formally introduced when the General Assembly reconvenes in January, will significantly increase the criminal and administrative penalties for drivers who leave accident scenes without stopping or rendering aid.
Delegate Norman’s effort to crack down on hit-and-run offenses is in response to last week’s deadly crash in Bel Air, caused by a driver who only hours before his Bel Air crash was cited by police for leaving the scene of a serious accident in Joppa. In the Joppa accident, the driver allegedly crossed the center line and hit an oncoming car carrying several children. The children were later taken to the hospital for medical evaluation. As reported in the media, the driver responsible for both accidents has a lengthily record littered with various driving and criminal offenses.
“Clearly, this driver had no business being behind the wheel following his hit-and-run offense in Joppa,” said Delegate Norman. “However, after examining Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Law, I now realize how relatively weak the current law is when it comes to most hit-and-run offenses. The law needs to be strengthened to reflect the seriousness and coldness of a driver who leaves the scene of an accident without assisting the victim or reporting the accident.”
Under Delegate Norman’s bill, hit-and-run situations that involve children or result in significant damage to a vehicle or other property will now be treated as a much more serious offense than under current law, subjecting the offender to fines and imprisonment six-times greater than the maximum penalty allowed today. The penalties for most other hit-and-run offenses will be increased, as well.
“Today, only hit-and-run violations that result in death or a serious physical injury subject an offender to tough repercussions,” Delegate Norman said. “That has to change.”
In addition to increasing both the minimum and maximum prison sentences for serious hit-and-run offenses, the legislation would increase the administrative penalties for drivers who leave an accident scene without stopping or rendering aid.
Under the legislation, leaving the scene of an accident without stopping or rendering aid will result in the immediate suspension of the offender’s driver’s license in situations when the accident results in death, bodily harm, or significant vehicular or other property damage. Moreover, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration will be required to further suspend or completely revoke the offender’s driver’s license following conviction, depending on the severity of the accident and the offender’s past driving record.
Delegate Norman, a Republican, stated that it his intention to introduce a bi-partisan bill that will include several Democratic and Republican co-sponsors.
Delegate Norman was one of several Harford County public officials who wrote to the Governor and Maryland Transportation Secretary John Porcari requesting the construction of a barrier wall along a dangerous stretch of the U.S. Rt. 1 Bypass in Bel Air, the site of the horrendous accident that took the lives of a young mother and her son.