Starting in September, stiffer penalties will be handed out to Texas drivers involved in fatal hit-and-run crashes.
"It's a statewide issue, where people are leaving people, literally, to die, so I'm glad we were able to make this move," Democratic Sen. Kirk Watson said.
Watson, the author of the bill, said the law—as it stood—encouraged people who may have been drinking to flee the scene of a crash because they'd receive a lesser penalty than if they were to stop and render aid.
"If somebody flees and they're able to sober up and you're not able to prove the intoxication, they're able to get around actually leaving somebody for dead," Watson said.
The new bill will make failure to stop and render aid following a fatal accident the same punishment as intoxication manslaughter, a second degree felony.
The need to reexamine the law came after the high-profile hit and run case involving a former Capitol staffer. Senator Watson was approached by people who knew the victim.
"It's too bad. They come to you, in this case, having suffered such a horrible loss, but when they come to you and you're able to respond to a way that actually brings about results, it's a very gratifying thing," Watson said.
According to the Austin Police Department, there were 393 hit-and-run accidents in the city in 2012—12 of which were fatal.
It's a law Austin's police chief has backed from the beginning. He hopes it sends a strong message to drivers.
"If we don't start sending a message that we are not going to tolerate the death and maiming of our neighbors, of our relatives, of our friends, of our co-workers, it's only going to get worse," Chief Art Acevedo said.