CITY HALL — Holding a picture of her son Luis Bravo in his cap and gown, Marta Puruncajas wept Tuesday as the City Council voted to increase civil penalties for hit and run drivers.
Bravo, 19, of Jackson Heights, was struck and killed last September as he walked eastbound on Broadway in Woodside.
"He just took off. He didn't stay there and help him, he just ran off," Puruncajas said in Spanish at City Hall.
The driver of the dark colored sedan that killed Bravo has yet to be found by police almost a year later.
Drivers who leave the scene of an accident where someone is killed face a maximum $5,000 fine.
Under the legislation sponsored by City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents Woodside, and co-sponsored by Ydanis Rodriguez, chair of the transportation committee, anyone who knowingly leaves the scene of an accident would face up to $10,000 in fines.
"There are few things that are worse than leaving another human being who could be saved to die in the streets. We had to do something. There were too many vigils," said Van Bramer, who added that there have been three hit and run fatalities in his district during the last 18 months.
Under the proposed law, drivers who leave the scene where there is just property damage face a maximum $500 fine. The fine ranges from $1,000 to $2,000 for accidents with injuries and $2,000 to $10,000 for serious injuries. In cases of death, the fine ranges from $5,000 to $10,000.
"Now drivers will think twice before they leave the scene of a crime, taking into consideration the new penalties," said Rodriguez, who talked of how both a close friend and his mother have been struck by vehicles in the last few years.
The new law comes as a taxi driver who struck and killed a woman on the Upper East Side last month became the first person to face criminal charges under the city's new Vision Zero plan that's designed to eliminate traffic deaths over the next decade.
The new law is meant to work in conjunction with Vision Zero.
"You cannot put a price on human life but this legislation sends a message that we care for all individuals who are hurt on our streets," Rodriguez said.
The legislation now heads to Mayor Bill de Blasio to be signed into law. Supporters believe he will sign it.