House approves tougher hit-and-run law

The Texas House on Saturday unanimously approved legislation to increase penalties for drivers who leave the scene of an accident involving an injury, a measure hastened by the tragic death of a Tarrytown pedestrian in 2011. The House vote was 130-0. Senate Bill 275 earlier passed the Senate. The measure by Sens. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, and Reps. Allen Fletcher, R-Tomball, and Elliot Naishtat, D-Austin, would close a loophole in state law that allows intoxicated drivers to escape with less punishment if they flee the scene of a fatal accident and sober up than if they stop to help and are found to be drunk.

Failure to stop and render aid is a third-degree felony, but intoxication manslaughter is a second-degree felony. SB 275 would make failure to stop and render aid in an injury accident a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Watson earlier said the measure was prompted by the death of Courtney Griffin, an Austin nanny who was struck and killed by a driver who left the scene.

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