A hit-and-run accident occurs in the U.S. every 43 seconds. And, there is a startling development: the number of hit-and-run accidents has increased by 60 percent since 2009. This is according to a report recently released by the Automobile Association of America (AAA). "The problem is bigger than I think most people are aware," says Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began compiling statistics on fatal motor vehicle crashes 43 years ago. The year 2016 had the largest number of fatal accidents and fatalities ever recorded: 2,049 fatalities. Pedestrian and bicyclists were 70 percent of fatalities. 81 percent of fatalities occurred in urban areas in 2018.
A person that causes an incident and leaves the scene is a double loss for a victim. First, they are injured. Second, the wrongdoer leaves and no justice is possible. However, uninsured motorist coverage on a person’s own auto insurance policy may be available to provide compensation.
Why Hit-and-Run Fatalities Have Increased
According to the AAA report, one main reason hit-and-run fatalities have increased, and why there is such a high percentage of pedestrian and bicyclist deaths, is because cities have become more “walkable” and “rideable.” As a result, traffic congestion has increased in cities encouraging people to walk, or to ride their bikes to work and school. But, despite these encouragements, many cities have not improved their infrastructures to make them pedestrian or bicycle friendly. Designated lanes for cyclists can improve safety for bicyclists. Signs instructing drivers to yield to crossing pedestrians can improve pedestrian safety.
The increased numbers of walkers and bike riders, can explain the “hit,” but what explains the “run?”
Unfortunately, the AAA report noted, research on drivers that flee the scene is limited. By definition, they flee so getting data on why the fled is difficult. Only about half of them are ever caught, so there is no way to accurately assess why drivers leave an accident scene.
Based on the limited data available, the most likely explanations are that they:
- Have a criminal history of some sort that makes them fearful of being caught. Perhaps there is an outstanding warrant for their arrest and they are simply trying to escape legal prosecution for another offense.
- Were drunk or drinking alcohol and fear the consequences of causing an accident while driving drunk. The studies have shown, as much as they can with limited data, that drivers who leave the scene of an accident are more than likely drunk.
- Do not have car insurance.
What Can Be Done to Stop the Rise in Hit and Run Accidents
Many cities are using alerts, similar to Amber alerts, to notify other drivers to be on the lookout for a certain car that left the scene of an accident. As much of a description as possible of the car and the driver is given in the alert.
Law Against Leaving the Scene of an Accident
Every state has laws against leaving the scene of an accident. In Illinois, leaving the scene of an accident where there was only property damage is considered a Class 4 felony. Those convicted face a minimum of one year in prison.
If a person leaves the scene of an accident and someone was hurt, the charges are for a Class 2 felony which carries a penalty of between three and seven years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
A person who leaves the scene of an accident where someone was killed, if caught, the charges are a Class 1 felony. The penalty if convicted will be punishment of between four and 15 years in the state prison. A fine of up to $25,000 may also be imposed.
What to Do if You Are injured in a Hit-and-Run Accident
Injuries from a vehicle collision can be devastating. When at-fault drivers do the right thing and stop, and provide required information including their insurance company identification, the injured person can then be compensated for their medical bills, lost wages, and other damages they suffer.
If you were injured in a hit-and-run accident, you know how life-changing it can be to accumulate medical bills while you are out of work and believe there is nowhere for you to turn for compensation. This is a time to contact a hit and run attorney to assist you with collecting from your own insurance policy under your uninsured motorist provision. Contact the Blumenshine Law Group [email protected] for a free consultation and answers to your questions. (312)766-1000.