Erlene Gomez, 91, died Thursday night after being struck by a hit-and-run driver at Heights Boulevard and 15th Street in the Heights in Houston. According to KHOU News, Gomez was struck from behind by a white Toyota SUV while walking down 15th Street after getting off a bus. According to a witness, the driver left the scene slowly, and police believe the driver lives in the neighborhood.
This marks yet another in a troubling line of fatal hit-and-run incidents in Houston. Hit-and-run fatalities have been on the rise nationally, and hit-and-run crashes in Houston exceed the national average. Pedestrians and cyclists are particularly hard-hit. In 2013, 14% of all accidents involved hit-and-run drivers, and hit-and-run drivers accounted for a fifth of all pedestrian fatalities.
In Texas, as in most states, the law requires drivers involved in an accident to, at a minimum, stop and provide insurance information and render reasonable aid to any injured person. If anyone was injured or killed, or if the damage leaves a vehicle undriveable, then a driver must also immediately call the police.
Failing to stop at a collision involving an injury or death is a felony in Texas, regardless of who caused the collision. Failing to stop at a collision resulting in death, as Thursday night’s driver apparently did, is a second degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. This is the same punishment as intoxication manslaughter, or causing a death through drunk driving. The Texas legislature recently increased the punishment for hit and runs to match the punishments for causing injuries or death through drunk driving, because the older, lower punishments encouraged drunk drivers to flee the scene of crashes.
If you or someone you know has been injured by a drunk driver or hit-and-run driver, contact an experienced attorney at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner by calling 713-396-3964 or toll free at 800-594-4884.