In the final scene of the series Seinfeld finds Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer in a jail cell. They’d been arrested under a Good Samaritan law for standing by and watching while someone was being mugged. This year, a similar law has come up for debate here in Maryland. (HB1178)

Earlier this session, we shared the story of Nathan Krasnopoler, the Hopkins student who was struck by a car while on his bike, and later died. Nathan’s mother, Susan Cohen has previously appeared, encouraging legislation for cognitive testing of elderly drivers, such as the one who ran over her son. Mrs. Cohen recently returned to Annapolis to share her son’s story once again in an effort to get the House to pass legislation that would make “failure to render assistance” a citable offense.

Though knocked unconscious, Mr. Krasnopoler was alive after the initial accident. However, the 83 year old driver of the car never called for assistance. She simply got out of the car, which was still running, and sat on a curb next to the accident scene….no call to a passerby for help, no call to 911. Witnesses later said that it simply appeared that a young man was under the woman’s car, trying to fix it while she sat on a nearby wall. Instead, that young man was dying, the weight of the car crushing his chest.

The moments that were lost while the driver sat idly by could have made the difference between life and death for Mr. Krasnopoler. That driver was only given two citations, neither related to the injuries she caused to Mr. Krasnopoler. Both were simply traffic citations: “Failure to yield right of way” and “negligent driving.” She did not receive any points on her license, nor was it suspended.

Under the this bill, failure to render assistance would result in eight points being assessed to the violator’s license, as well as their license being suspended for a minimum of two days and a maximum of 30 days for the first offense. A second offense would result in a minimum suspension of fifteen days and a maximum of ninety. In addition, once a driver has five points against their license, they’re required to take a driver improvement course. So this law would make that automatic.

It’s unfortunate that something as simple as calling 911 to get help for someone pinned underneath of a car requires a law. You would hope that it would be anyone’s first instinct.

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