Data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows hit and run vehicle accidents occur approximately every minute on U.S. roadways. In 2016, there were approximately 2,049 hit and run accident fatalities, the most since 2009, and a total of 737,100 hit and run accidents occurred in 2015. Dr. David Yang, executive director for AAA, explained that the data shows a dangerous rising trend over the last decade.
Pedestrian and Bicyclist Risk
Hit and run crashes are a safety problem that impacts pedestrians and bicyclists the most. An estimated 20% of pedestrian deaths involve a motorist who flees the scene. Jennifer Ryan, a director at AAA, explains that drivers need to consider their “legal and moral responsibilities”. Leaving the scene of a crash may lead to criminal penalties. For vehicle and pedestrian crashes, the most likely time for occurrences of hit and run is between 12 a.m. and 4 a.m.
All states have laws prohibiting leaving the scene of an accident. According to Maryland statute, drivers involved in a crash leading to bodily harm must stop their vehicle near the scene in a manner that does not obstruct traffic. Those who violate this law may be subject to points on their driving record, fines, and jail time. When the accident involves severe bodily injury, the violation may be a felony punishable by up to five years of incarceration and fines up to $5,000. If the accident results in death, the penalties may be up to 10 years in jail and a $10,000 fine.
Recent yearly data for fatal hit and run accidents within the state include:
- 2014: 24
- 2015: 31
- 2016: 25
Trends and Characteristics
A Procedia Engineering study suggested a correlation between the likelihood of a hit and run crash and the population of the area of occurrence:
- Drivers are 50% more likely to flee an accident in areas with 2,500 to 5,000 in population compared to areas with over 10,000
- Drivers are 43% more likely to flee an accident in areas with 5,000 to 10,000 in population compared to areas with over 10,000
- Drivers are more likely to flee on rural roads compared to urban roads
Unattended Hit and Run Accidents
It can be startling for someone approaching their car to discover that it had been struck by a driver who has fled. There are likely no witnesses. It is best to promptly file a police report, which may be a requirement from your auto insurer. Although unlikely, it is possible that the police may be able to identify the motorist involved.
At The Scene
Those involved in a hit and run accident with severe injuries should make efforts to promptly contact emergency medical services as soon as possible. If you witness a hit and run accident, the fleeing vehicle is unlikely to call 9-1-1 and an injured motorist may not be capable of doing so. Injuries such as those to the head or where victims are experiencing internal bleeding require fast medical assistance.