The California Assembly has worked diligently over the past two legislative sessions to bring a Yellow Alert Bill to fruition. Ultimately they were successful in 2015 as Governor Brown recently signed off on it. The Yellow Alert will allow local law enforcement to contact California Highway Patrol with details on a car that has been involved in a hit-and-run situation within mere moments with information to be broadcast on CMS boards to motorists.
California Assemblyman Mike Gatto of the 43rd District originally drafted the legislation due to the escalating numbers of hit-and-run victims in the Los Angeles area. These victims include motorcyclists, pedestrians, and bicyclists. As we previously reported, more than 20,000 hit-and-run incidents are logged by the Los Angeles Police Department in a year which averages to a staggering 48 percent of all collisions in that city.
Presently, an all-points-bulletin will only go out if a victim has been killed; if a victim is merely seriously injured, it could be days before local law enforcement are notified of the type of vehicle to look for and, too often, by that time the vehicle has been repaired and shows no visual evidence of being in a hit-and-run.
When asked if any final modifications were made to the bill, Eric Menjivar, spokesman for Assemblyman Gatto, said, “The only modification made was that CHP will have final approval for a request of a Yellow Alert from the local jurisdiction.”
Curiously enough, as recent as May 19th of this year, Commissioner J.A. Farrow of the Department of California Highway Patrol wrote to Gatto that CHP would oppose the legislation citing that the AMBER Alert System relies “on CMS to involve the motoring public to the greatest extent possible as quickly as possible, in the search for a suspect, child, and/or suspect vehicle.”
The commissioner’s comments were confusing to many as this is the exact reason why the boards are needed in hit-and-run situations. Officer Jason Olson of the Santa Monica Police Department stated that the initial hours and days after a hit-and-run are the most crucial since scenes can quickly change and that drivers too frequently patch up incriminating car damage as fast as possible.
The CMS boards are currently in use to alert motorists of missing children and senior citizens and the new Yellow Alert notifications will begin on January 1, 2016. Law enforcement will then be able to get notices activated within mere moments on a regional level to issue messages to the motoring public detailing license plate information as well as the description of the driver and car to help apprehend a suspect when a hit-and-run has occurred that has resulted in a fatality or serious injury.
The Yellow Alert legislation does have a “sunset clause” and it will be in effect through 2018; it will then lapse unless follow up legislation extends it or makes it permanent.