The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a new tiered reward system for hit and runs on Wednesday that will provide monetary incentives for people to report drivers who fail to stop after collisions.
The decision was spurred by the nearly 20,000 hit-and-run collisions that were reported last year citywide, which resulted in 150 deaths and serious injuries, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. Councilman Joe Buscaino, 15th District, authored the motion and hopes it will change peoples’ viewpoints about hit-and-run collisions.
“This standing reward ordinance is meant to change the culture of hit-and-run crimes in Los Angeles by incentivizing eyewitnesses to come forth with information leading to the arrest and conviction of morally deficient drivers,” Buscaino said.
The new system will provide a $50,000 reward for hit-and-run collisions resulting in a fatality; $25,000 for collisions that result in permanent serious injuries, as defined in the vehicle code; 5,000 for less serious injuries; and $1,000 for collisions resulting in property damage. The motion will go into effect in approximately one month.
Individuals who provide information leading to a conviction in hit-and-run cases would be eligible for the rewards. The city council will consider each reward on a case-by case basis.
The motion was prompted by a hit-and-run collision that seriously injured Hollywood resident Damian Kevitt, who was struck by a driver while riding his bicycle on Feb. 17, 2013 in Griffith Park. Kevitt was pinned under the driver’s minivan and dragged nearly a quarter-mile down an onramp to the Golden State (5) Freeway. He suffered 30 broken bones and one of his legs was amputated. The driver fled and was never identified.
Kevitt said shortly after the collision, while he was lying in a hospital bed, he resolved to finish the ride he started that day — something he accomplished last year. Kevitt formed the nonprofit Finish the Ride, which is preparing for the second annual “Finish the Ride” event on Sunday, April 19, beginning in Hollywood and ending in Griffith Park. Kevitt also advocates for stricter laws pertaining to hit and runs, and said the reward system approved on Wednesday is a step toward reducing the number of people hurt or killed each year.
“[It makes] it well known this is a subject of concern for the people of this city,” Kevitt said. “While Finish the Ride is going to be a great event, the purpose is to raise awareness and attention about the issue. The message is really a message of civility and decency on the roads. If you hit someone, stop the car.”
Kevitt said he expects more than 1,000 people to participate in this year’s Finish the Ride, which will begin in the parking lot of the Church of Scientology building near Sunset Boulevard and Vermont Avenue, and will end at the Autry National Center in Griffith Park. The six-mile primary route runs along Fountain, Hyperion and Rowena Avenues, Glendale Boulevard, and Riverside and Crystal Springs drives.
Cyclists can also participate in extended 22-, 27- and 50-mile rides throughout Griffith Park. Kevitt said he opened the event to pedestrians, runners and “people on scooters and skateboards” this year to make it more inclusive. Participants can begin gathering at 6:30 a.m., and the event starts at 7:30 a.m. Advance fees range from $30 to $60, depending on whether additional routes are selected, and go up by $10 on the day of the event.
“There is going to be music, food, dancing, a barbecue, ice cream, a raffle and entertainment after the ride,” Kevitt said. “The end expo opens at 8:30 a.m. [at the Autry National Center] and it’s open to the public whether they participate in the ride or not.”
Kevitt said although he suffered serious injuries in the hit and run in 2013, it changed his life for the better in many ways. He plans to continue hosting Finish the Ride, and will build on work conducted by his other nonprofit, Streets Are For Everyone, which is referred to as SAFE.
“The tiered reward system is one of several steps that are needed,” Kevitt added. “The plan that is starting to take shape is really encouraging.”
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