The only thing more infuriating than being in an accident that’s not your fault is watching the driver flee the scene, and it’s unfortunately not all that uncommon. According to research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, more than one hit-and-run crash happens every minute on America’s roads.
Hit-and-runs occur when at least one person involved in the crash flees the scene before offering help or information to others involved. While hit-and-runs typically occur between two moving cars, they may also involve pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcycles, parked cars, and other property.
Hit-and-runs are serious business and can increase the cost of your medical care and the severity of outcomes, given the delays or total absence of medical attention for victims. These types of accidents can be very difficult for you and your family, and you may be looking for remediation and insurance support. If this has happened to you, you may need a hit-and-run lawyer.
Unfortunately, hit-and-runs are increasing. Experts say staying to help the injured victim could save a life. So, why do people flee the scene of the accident?
Hit-and-Run Stats: Putting Them in Perspective
Here’s what a national AAA study shows about the severity and frequency of hit-and-runs.
- Hit-and-runs accounted for over 5% of traffic fatalities.
- There’s an average increase of 7.2% every year.
- Fleeing drivers accounted for 20% of pedestrian crash fatalities.
- 68% of people killed due to hit-and-runs were pedestrians and bicyclists.
- 737,100 hit-and-run crashes occurred in 2015.
- 2,049 people were killed in hit-and-runs in 2016 – a 60% increase since 2009.
To put it in perspective, that’s almost six deaths per day and more than one hit-and-run every minute on US roadways.
Possible Causes of This Alarming Trend of Hit-and-Runs
No one knows exactly why there is an increase in hit-and-run collisions, but there are many theories, ranging from population increase to distracted drivers.
With a population of 328 million, the United States is the third most populous country in the world. And the U.S. Census anticipates that the population will double during this century.
This means there are far more people on the road, which increases the number of collisions, including the likelihood of hit-and-runs.
Another theory for the increase of hit-and-runs centers on distracted driving, namely cell phone usage.
In many states, texting and driving is illegal, meaning that a collision due to phone usage turns an accident into a criminal offense. This may be a scary enough consequence to send a driver fleeing the scene and creating a hit-and-run situation.
A Zendrive study revealed what many of us intuitively suspected. More than half of Americans (60%) use their phones when they get behind the wheel. The study also found that drivers spend more than 3.5 minutes every hour on their phones while driving, even though a two-second distraction increases the chances of a crash by 20 times.
Driving a vehicle drunk or impaired is a crime. Like texting and driving, fear of that criminal charge on top of causing a collision could lead someone to flee the scene, effectively creating a whole new criminal charge.
Every day, about 28 people in the United States die because of alcohol-related vehicle crashes – or one person every 52 minutes in 2019, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
While these represent only a few theories on the hit-and-run increase, there is no definitive answer as to why hit-and-runs have continued to increase.
Common Characteristics of People Involved in Hit-and-Run Crashes
Leaving the scene of a collision is illegal in every state and can lead to serious criminal charges. In some states, even a misdemeanor hit-and-run (involving property damage or minor injury) carries a potential sentence of up to one year in jail, as well as fines.
According to Jennifer Ryan, director of state relations at AAA, “While no one likes being involved in a crash, leaving the scene will significantly increase the penalties for drivers – whether they caused the crash or not.”
Yet, it happens over two thousand times a day.
Who Are Hit-and-Run Victims?
- Fatally injured pedestrians under age six or over age 80 were half as likely to be victims of hit-and-runs as in any other age groups.
- In crashes involving children, the driver is identified more than 60% of the time versus 39% for older victims.
- Males make up around 70% of hit-and-run victims in crashes.
Who Are Hit-and-Run Drivers?
- Drivers are likely to be young males with a history of prior DWI and license suspension.
- Drivers tend to drive older model cars, suggesting a lower socioeconomic status.
- Drivers frequently have positive blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of arrest, and drivers who leave the scene are between two and nine times more likely to have been intoxicated at the time of the crash.
- Drivers who flee crashes involving children ages 15 and younger or women are more likely to be identified later on.
- Drivers are about twice as likely to be identified in hit-and-runs when they happen in locations other than the road or crosswalks.
What Factors Contribute to Hit-and-Runs?
- Environmental factors such as lighting, roadway design, and location.
- A lack of witnesses on a low-traffic road.
- The time it happens — hit-and-runs are 4.5 times more likely to happen between midnight and 4 a.m., because of low visibility and a higher likelihood of an intoxicated driver.
- What type of roadway it is – because if it is undivided or has a lower speed limit, pedestrians often attempt to cross it.
- How heavily populated the area is — urban areas have more hit-and-runs than low-population areas simply because more vehicles and pedestrians are in close proximity.
How Insurance Issues Can Impact Hit-and-Run Driver Decisions
In the United States, all drivers are required to have automobile insurance. If a driver causes a crash, his or her insurance will potentially pay for damages that the accident victim suffers as a result.
Unfortunately, not every driver has insurance. Some drivers:
- Don’t have a valid driver’s license
- Have a suspended license
- Are unable to afford insurance
- Do not qualify for coverage
Any time a driver has no insurance, that driver is a risk to others on the road. When uninsured drivers are at-fault in accidents, they are supposed to pay the bills that victims incur as a result of the crash.
Without insurance, few drivers have assets to cover the medical bills, lost wages, and other damages associated with the accident, which may total in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Drivers with no license and no insurance are more likely to hit-and-run because they know they are breaking the law. This could result in victims being injured more seriously due to delayed medical care.
Can Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Policies Protect You in a Hit-and-Run?
If you’ve been in a hit-and-run, you need to find out if your insurance will pay through an uninsured/underinsured motorist policy.
Whether an insurer will pay and how much they pay will depend on the type and extent of coverage you bought when you purchased your auto insurance. If you are a victim of a hit-and-run accident, consult with an experienced attorney who can help you review your policy and determine if an uninsured motorist claim is a viable solution.
Countermeasures: What You Can Do
These statistics are alarming. What can you do to avoid being a victim of a hit-and-run?
When a Collision Happens
If you are in a vehicle and are the victim of a hit-and-run, follow these steps:
- Pull over to get out of traffic. Write down or take a picture of the license plate number of the other vehicle. Police say that many victims are tricked when the driver of the other vehicle appears to pull over but then takes off, leaving behind a very confused victim.
- Try to get a description of the vehicle and where it is heading if it speeds away.
- Contact law enforcement immediately.
- Photograph the damage.
- Stay at the scene — panicking decreases your chances of getting viable information.
Avoid a Hit-and-Run as a Pedestrian
A pedestrian hit-and-run accident can be even more challenging to deal with. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind as a pedestrian to try to reduce the risk of being hit by a car:
- Wear bright colors or reflectors so you can be more visible to drivers. Colors that easily reflect light, like white or yellow, are good choices. Reflectors can make you visible in a car’s headlights within 500 feet.
- Stay on the sidewalks and crosswalks, especially at night.
- Stay off roads without sidewalks, or walk against traffic if there are no sidewalks. Walking against traffic allows you to see oncoming cars that might not see you.
- Look where you are going. When crossing a street, look left, right, and then left again.
- Be alert. You can’t control what other people are doing, but by being alert, you can control what you’re doing and how you might need to react to a potential situation.
Of course, none of these things can guarantee your safety, but by doing your best to stay safe, you are potentially reducing your risk.
Get a Free Case Evaluation from Experienced Lawyers
If you or someone you know was the victim of a hit-and-run, contact us immediately or call 1-866-900-7078 for a free case evaluation. You may be unable to obtain the compensation you may deserve on your own. Our car accident attorneys are here to help. The call and case evaluation are free.Text Us