AMHERST — Legislation which would make it illegal to leave the scene of an accident while intoxicated has been reintroduced at the state level.
The legislation was presented by State Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan, R-Elma, and Assemblymember Karen M. McMahon, D-Amherst. The bill has been passed multiple times by the Senate, but has stalled in the Assembly.
The legislation is named for Alix Rice, a Western New York teenager who was killed in 2011 when an intoxicated driver struck her as she rode her long board in the Town of Amherst. The driver claimed he was not aware he hit Rice and was acquitted on the felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident.
He was convicted on a lesser charge of operating a vehicle while under the influence.
Existing law only requires drivers to report an accident when they know, or have reason to know, the accident resulted in an injury or property damage. That has allowed drunk drivers to flee the scene of an accident they caused and later claim they did not know any injury or damage occurred.
The legislation modifies the current statute so that drivers illegally operating their vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol are held responsible when they leave the scene of an accident. It also presumes that an intoxicated driver knew, or has reason to know, that damage or injury has occurred and should have stopped to investigate.
“I am thrilled that Senator Gallivan and Assemblymember McMahon are working together to sponsor Alix’s Law, named for my daughter,” said Tammy Schueler, Alix’s mom. “She never got the justice she deserved after her tragic death. It is so hard to believe that someone could selfishly drive away after striking another human being with a vehicle, yet it happens more often than you think. This simple law will close the existing loophole and ensure that people are held accountable for leaving the scene of a crash.”