Girgenti Bill Makes Car Owners Responsible

Owners will be Held Accountable in Car Accidents if the Driver is Unknown

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator John A. Girgenti, to require that car owners be held responsible when the driver, at the time of an accident, fails or refuses to report his involvement, was approved by the full Senate today.

“Drivers must report any car accident resulting in a death, injury or damage of at least $500, whether they are the owner of the vehicle or not,” said Senator Girgenti, D-Bergen and Passaic. “There is an unfortunate loophole in the law where owners are not required to report an accident, or disclose the identity of the responsible driver. By not sharing information with the authorities many ‘hit and run’ drivers evade punishment for their crimes.”

The bill, S-721, would make car owners responsible when the driver can not be identified. The bill would provide an exception for rented or leased vehicles, and would make the authorized driver accountable.

Senator Girgenti stated that, “The bill would provide a fine between $250 to $1,000 for anyone who conceals or destroys any evidence relating to an accident; or the identity of a driver involved.”

“Currently, drivers are responsible and not owners, and consequently there is no way to obtain the identity of the responsible driver, and police officers are unable to charge someone for the accident,” said Senator Girgenti. “The bill will give protection to the victim of a ‘hit and run’ when only the vehicle can be identified. If owners are charged for an accident that they didn’t commit, they will be more likely to release the identity of the actual driver.”

The bill now heads to the Assembly for consideration.