HIT-AND-RUN: THE HEART BREAKING EPIDEMIC
More than one hit-and-run crash occurs every minute on U.S. roads, according to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. These crashes resulted in 2,049 deaths in 2016 – the highest number on record and a 60 percent increase since 2009.
In California, there were 337 hit-and-run crashes involving at least one fatality in 2016, the latest year with available data. That total is the highest on record for the state, and the most in the nation. Texas (233) and Florida (206) were the only other states with more than 100 fatal incidents. Per capita, California has the seventh largest rate of fatal hit-and-run crashes in the country. From 2006 to 2016, there were almost 3,000 hit-and-run crashes involving at least one fatality on our state’s roadways.
What is the definition of a felony hit-and-run?
Felony hit-and-run: a failure on the part of a driver to stop, render aid, and accept responsibility for their part in a crash resulting in death or serious injury to a person.
How often does it happen?
Over recent years this crime has been on the rise and has reached epidemic proportions. Thousands of people each year are killed or seriously injured by a hit-and-run driver.
California Vehicle Code 20001(a)
Who does it affect?
Hit-and-run is an equal opportunity crime, both from the perspective of the victim and the offender, affecting people of every age, race, sex, and social status. Hit-and-runs leave behind death, permanent injury, psychological trauma and grieving family and friends with one basic question: why would anyone run someone over and just leave?
What are the penalties for felony hit-and-run in California?
Hit-and-Run resulting in death or serious injury can lead to punishment from two, three, or four years in state prison or not less than 90 days nor more than one year in the county jail, or by a fine of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000) nor more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both imprisonment and a fine. If this sentence seems light in consideration of loss of life and the callous nature of the crime, hold on to your hat: a judge may reduce or completely eliminate any jail or prison time and the hit-and-run driver may simply go free.
California Vehicle Code 20001(a)
Why do drivers flee the scene of a deadly accident?
Why would someone kill or injure another human being in a car crash and flee? In many instances a driver's decision to hit-and-run turns him or her from a party involved in an "accident" to a hunted criminal. Either the driver is hiding something or has something to protect (usually themselves). These people see right as what benefits themselves, and wrong as someone else's problem. The realization of suddenly being responsible for the death of another human being, and the reaction that follows, can be the ultimate test of one's true character.
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI)
Drivers found to be DUI face much more serious charges and possible penalties when involved in a crash. When a driver who is under the influence flees the scene before they can be tested for alcohol and/or drugs, it can help them get off a lot lighter. California's lenient hit-and-run laws give some drivers an incentive to flee the scene of a deadly crash.
In California and throughout the United States, distracted driving has reached dangerous levels. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) In 2016 alone, 3,477 people were killed and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. During daylight hours, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones while driving. This creates enormous potential for deaths and injuries on U.S. roads. Teens were the largest age age group reported as distracted at the time of fatal crashes. The good news is, like DUI fatalities, deadly crashes caused by distracted drivers are 100% preventable. Get more statistics on distracted driving and other risky driving behaviors
Illegal status - unlicensed, license suspended or revoked (repeat offender), uninsured
Self preservation - secret to keep, status to protect, fear of consequences
Breaking the law - stolen vehicle, street racing, fugitive status
Aggressive driving (road rage)
Age (youthful immaturity)
DO CALIFORNIA'S CURRENT FELONY HIT-AND-RUN LAWS GIVE DRIVERS AN INCENTIVE TO FLEE?
Under current California law, drivers who flee the scene of a deadly hit-and-run crash, avoiding toxicoholgy screen and delaying arrest or avoiding it altogether, avoid harsher penalties associated with DUI enhancements. Although law enforcement may suspect that a driver may have been impaired by alcohol or drugs at the time they hit and killed or injured someone, after the critical testing period has passed, there is little to no way of proving it.
This situation could reveal a perverse incentive within hit-and-run laws. Legally speaking, fleeing the crash scene might have actually been in the best interest of the driver that killed our beloved Jamari. Prosecutors believed he may have been DUI when he hit Jamari, but by the time he was caught nobody could not prove it - even though he admitted getting high earlier that day.
Stop HARD is an organization established to stop hit-and-run drivers and elicit a more compassionate response in the event of a crash causing death or serious injury. We are working to raise awareness about this heartbreaking trend and address contributing factors such as DUI and distracted driving. We promote safety awareness and provide support to hit-and-run victims and their families. Additionally, we will work with others to address lenient laws and sentencing that may give some drivers an incentive to flee the scene of a deadly crash.