NEW YORK - State lawmakers have approved a plan to stiffen penalties against drivers who leave the scene of an accident.

Currently, drivers who cause a crash and leave the scene can be charged with a misdemeanor. The new plan would allow those drivers to be charged with a felony if they leave the scene of an accident involving serious injury or death.

The bill was passed by the Senate and Assembly and is waiting to be signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Assemblyman Fred Thiele, who sponsored the bill, says this legislation sends a strong message to drivers. Thiele says drivers often leave accidents to avoid facing more serious charges, especially if they have been drinking or using drugs.

"There's an incentive to flee because of the potential penalties of crimes they could be charged with if they stay. This legislation seeks to get rid of that incentive," Thiele told News 12.

Efforts to reach the governor's office for comment on the bill were not successful.