|The car police say struck and killed Ryan Viola, 17.|
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Bensalem teen hit by car dies
Posted: Sunday, December 2, 2012
The Bensalem teen hit by a car while walking to his school bus stop Thursday morning died early Saturday after he was removed from life support.
The 54-year-old Philadelphia woman who police say struck and fatally injured 17-year-old Ryan Viola could face jail time — not necessarily for the accident — but for her driving record.
The investigation into the early morning accident is ongoing, police said. They confirmed that the driver, identified as Lisa Ann Murray of the 5500 block of Torresdale Avenue, has an expired Ohio driver’s license and a suspended Pennsylvania driver’s license.
A preliminary police investigation shows Murray had a green light and stopped after striking Ryan, who was crossing Bensalem Boulevard against the traffic light. He was in a marked crosswalk headed to his bus stop shortly before 6:30 a.m. Thursday.
No charges had been filed against Murray as of Saturday.
Ryan died about 3 a.m. Saturday at Aria Health Torresdale campus in Philadelphia where he was airlifted after the accident, said Bensalem police.
He was a senior and honor student at Bucks County Technical High School in Bristol Township, where he was in the electrical occupations program.
The posted speed limit on that part of Bensalem Boulevard is 40 mph. No crossing guard is assigned there until 6:45 a.m. and police said crossing guards usually aren’t on duty for high school students.
Police had no information about why Murray’s license was suspended and PennDOT doesn’t reveal suspension information citing confidentiality laws.
There are many reasons a driver’s license may be suspended — from failure to pay child support, to passing a school bus with flashing red lights and stop arm extended, to accumulating too many points on a driver’s record.
In Pennsylvania, driving with a suspended or revoked license is a summary offense, similar to a traffic ticket. But habitual offenders risk higher fines, mandatory jail time, PennDOT penalties and difficulty finding car insurance once a license is restored.
Last year, police issued more than 3,700 citations for driving while under suspension or revocation in Bucks County and more than 6,200 in Montgomery County, according to data from Pennsylvania State Police. A large number of those drivers had been cited two or more times.
Last year alone, at least 20 residents of Bucks or Montgomery counties were cited five times for the offense and at least 13 were cited six or more times, according to the data.
The Pennsylvania Legislature sets the maximum number of violations an individual commits before a mandatory jail sentence is imposed for driving under a suspended or revoked license. Under the current law, drivers face 30 days to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for a sixth or subsequent conviction for driving with a suspended or revoked license.
But drivers could face jail time after just a second conviction for certain traffic offenses, including driving while suspended or revoked, under a different section of the vehicle code. It imposes a penalty of $200 to $1,000 fine or up to six months in jail.
The penalties for a DUI-related license suspension are harsher. The first offense carries a $500 fine and mandatory minimum 60-day jail sentence, depending on the person’s blood alcohol level.
A conviction for driving while suspended also adds one year to the license suspension and, once the driver’s license is restored, a five-point penalty is assigned to the individual’s record, according to PennDOT. For adults, six points on a driving record could lead to a suspension.
The license suspension is longer — two years — for drivers designated by PennDOT as “habitual offenders,” meaning they have accumulated three separate convictions for specific offenses, including driving on a suspended license, within five years, PennDOT said.
One way defendants get around the charge is persuading the police officer or prosecutor to change it to a lesser offense or withdraw it in exchange for a guilty plea. The move is seen as a way to avoid higher fines, jail time and longer suspensions.
This year, Bucks County has seen a number of high- profile pedestrian traffic accidents involving drivers with suspended licenses.
Last week, Jonathan Simmons, 27, of Bristol Township pleaded guilty in Bucks County Court to the July 22 hit-and-run death of John Rearick.
At the time of the accident on New Falls Road, Simmons had been driving with a suspended driver’s license due to prior traffic violations, and had been cited twice for driving while suspended, court records show.
Bristol Township resident Charles Horrocks, 23, had been charged five previous times with driving with a suspended license since 2009 before the Feb. 19 hit-and-run accident that killed Falls resident Eric Beck, 36.
Horrocks is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty in October to homicide by vehicle while DUI and related charges — including his sixth driving while suspended offense — in Beck’s death.
Upper Southampton resident Stanley Stevens, 94, also had accumulated four convictions for driving with a suspended license since September 2011. He died in April after losing control of his unregistered car and striking a parked car, a house and a tree.