Busy Providence Street Prompts Hit and Run Bill

Hit and run crashes are on the rise in Rhode Island. Now, Lawmakers know first hand about the devastation these accidents can cause and are doing something to make drivers think twice before leaving someone for dead. ABC6 has reported on three very serious pedestrian accidents on Atwells Avenue in the last year.

Councilman Terry Hassett spent the end of October and the entire month of November in the intensive care unit at Rhode Island hospital after being hit by a car. The woman who hit him, 24-year old Tihani Melania Pichardo, left the scene and will now be spending three and a half years in jail. 

“When you realized that someone hit you and took off, how did it make you feel?” asked ABC6 Reporter Shannon O'Brien.

“It made me feel bad, but I felt bad for her because she is going to have to deal with this guilt issue,”said Hassett.

If lawmakers have their way, people like Pichardo will be locked up for a lot longer.

“We need to send a message to Rhode Islanders that we will not tolerate this lawlessness and lack of regard for human life,” said Senator Edward O' Neill.

O'Neill has introduced a bill that would double the penalties for leaving the scene of an accident. First time hit and run drivers who seriously hurt the victim will face two to ten years in prison. Second timers would be locked up for five to twenty-five years. If the victim dies, the driver would face five to thirty years in prison, second timers could spend as much as sixty years behind bars.

Senator Paul Jabour is co-sponsoring this bill. “We have gotten a lot of comments from people that the penalties are not harsh enough for hit and run, drunk driving incidents,” Jabour told ABC6. Safety measures have already been installed on Atwells and other dangerous streets in the state. Measures such as more pedestrian signs, better lighting, and speed bumps are now nicknamed the “Hassett Hump.”