Calling it a “terribly bad habit,” President Rafael Correa said Saturday he will introduce legislation to the National Assembly to punish drivers who leave the scene of a traffic accident. Under current law, he says, there is no penalty for the practice.
“We will make it the legal responsibility of drivers involved in accidents to remain on the scene until police arrive,” he said. “Running from an accident, especially if people are injured, should be crime.”
Leaving accident scenes is common practice in many Latin American countries, including Ecuador, and Correa says the law is to blame for not applying disincentives to leave the scene — or incentives to stay. “Unfortunately, even those who are not responsible for accidents are considered guilty until prove innocent, which can take days to determine,” Correa said. “Innocent people are often sent to jail until the police finish their investigation.”
In particular, he pointed to cases involving pedestrians. “If a driver hits a drunkard who crosses the street illegally he should not be afraid of going to jail if he remains on the scene of the accident,” Correa said. “Drivers do not worry about this in Europe or the United States.”
In 2015, Correa said, 9,561 drivers fled the scene of the 26,220 accidents investigated by transit police. “This has to end,” Correa said.