Crime & Justice

‘Yellow Alert’ system would use traffic signs to catch hit-and-run suspects

A state bill would allow law enforcement to activate a
A state bill would allow law enforcement to activate a "yellow alert" and broadcast vehicle information on electronic highway signs in California in search of drivers suspected of hit-and-run collisions.
Erika Aguilar/KPCC

Listen to story

Download this story 0MB

State and Los Angeles city lawmakers are asking for legislation to allow police to use digital traffic signs to help identify drivers suspected of serious and deadly hit-and-run traffic collisions amid increasing concern over the number of hit-and-run collisions in Los Angeles.

AB 47 would create a  “yellow alert” system -- modeled after the national emergency Amber Alert system -- allowing police to regionally broadcast license plate and vehicle descriptions of drivers suspected of crashing into another person, causing injury and leaving the scene.

“It’s gotten to the point to where not a single weekend goes by without all of us seeing on the news another hit-and-run tragedy,” said Assembly Member Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) who filed the bill.

Related: A Face of Hit-and-Run Victims

Local law enforcement would have to ask the California Highway Patrol to broadcast the alert on the digital highway traffic signs. Gatto said the alert would not go out to people’s cell phones and it is supposed to be kept within the region where the collision happened.  

If passed, the alert system would go into effect January 2015. The bill is currently in the Senate. It would need to be voted on and passed by August 31, the last day for each house to pass legislation.  

Gatto quoted an LA Weekly investigation on hit-and-runs that revealed there were nearly 20,000 hit-and-runs each year in Los Angeles during 2009, making up almost half of all vehicle crashes.

There were 3,635 deadly and serious hit-and-runs in the city of Los Angeles last year, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. LAPD officials are trying to reduce that number by five percent over the next year.

Gatto said state administration or CHP officials have not yet expressed support for the bill or concerns.

Hit-and-run survivor Damian Kevitt, who has one prosthetic leg, stood next to a proto-type sign of what the yellow alert would look like at a news conference Tuesday announcing efforts to push the bill through the legislature.

“The truth is hit and runs are a symptom of inhumanity,” Kevitt said.

He was dragged about a quarter mile by a mini van in Griffith Park last year while riding with his wife. He still doesn’t know who hit him but there were witnesses.

Kevitt said he doesn’t think the proposed “yellow alert” system is the ‘holy grail’ to stopping hit- and-runs, but thinks it’ll help.

“There needs to be infrastructure changes, there needs to be awareness campaigns, there needs to be education, there are needs to be a lot of different things,” he said.

Colorado introduced a similar hit-and-run alert system on electronic highway billboards in March of this year.  Soon after, the Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution in support of a similar system for California.