There have been several high profile collisions involving pedestrians and vehicles in the past several months in the state of New York. This has some residents questioning whether the state is providing a severe enough penalty for those drivers who strike a pedestrian-especially in the case of a hit-and-run, when the driver flees the scene of the accident leaving the pedestrian to suffer or die without assistance.

New York, like all states, does provide severe penalties for hit-and-run drivers, but some say the penalties do not go far enough. It remains to lawmakers to decide whether the laws need to be re-written and whether or not imposing stricter penalties on New York drivers would decrease the instance of hit-and-run accidents in the state.

“The leaving the scene statute requires that the driver — whether or not he or she is blameworthy in the crash — knows or has reason to know that personal injury has been caused in order to be criminally charged,” says Nassau County assistant district attorney and traffic law specialist Maureen McCormick. “The fact that the injury results in death is a separate element.”

“There is some logic in the position that a person cannot be criminally charged for something they did not know occurred. The issue is what we can prove in terms of that knowledge.”

In other words, under New York State code, “I didn’t see her” is a credible defense. As we reported following a 2009 Transportation Alternatives traffic justice summit, this is not the case in other jurisdictions.