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Hit-And-Run Drivers Will Soon Be On Blast With New Yellow Alerts

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We're all familiar with seeing amber alerts on the roadways when a child is kidnapped, but thanks to a new California law, we'll soon be seeing yellow alerts for hit-and-run drivers.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill, which was penned by L.A. Assemblyman Mike Gatto, into law on Monday, City News Service reports. The public alert system will go into effect on January 1.

The way it works is that when there's a hit-and-run, the suspected fleeing driver's car info—color, make, model and license plate number—will be displayed on digital freeway signs and road signs, in the same vein as kidnappings are reported. The alerts would only be used in the areas where the hit-and-run took place, and only for those that result in serious injury or death. The notifications would not be sent to people's phones like amber alerts.

"This bill will make a very, very meaningful difference, I think, in the number of people who are brought to justice," Gatto told KPCC. "And if more people are brought to justice, I think more people will do the decent thing, and that's stop. And realize that if you flee the scene of an accident, it's a crime; if you stop and render aid, then it's just an accident."

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Last year, Brown vetoed a similar bill, voicing concerns that the hit-and-run alerts could overburden the current alert system, and even dilute the strength of the already existing amber alerts. Though, Gatto pointed out that the same digital freeway signs were being used to tell residents about the drought and urging them to save water, so there should be room for hit-and-run alerts.

"We shouldn't have to put up $50,000 rewards to try to catch somebody," Gatto told City News Service. "We shouldn't have to flier our neighborhoods. We should give law enforcement tools to try to catch somebody by crowdsourcing it, if you will."

Gatto was referring to the L.A. City Council approving earlier this year $1,000 to $50,000 rewards for leads on hit-and-run cases.

Los Angeles doesn't have the best track record for solving hit-and-run cases. NBC Los Angeles reported in April 2014 that nearly four out of five hit-and-run cases never get solved, according to an internal LAPD memo. And there are 20,000 of these hit-and-runs reported each year.