It happens in the U.S. every day. A distracted driver hits someone on the road or crashes into another car. They are stunned for a second, then hit the gas and speed away. Hit-and-run drivers typically do not consider the consequences of leaving the accident scene, nor do they consider the broken lives they leave behind.
Whether a driver hits a South Florida mommy blogger out on a run or a New York business executive on their way to work, the outcome is always the same: devastation, pain, medical bills, loss of income, or even death. The statistics speak volumes: 20,000 fatal hit-and-runs in the U.S. in 10 years.
So, why do these drivers drive away rather than try to help? Why don’t they call for help before disappearing into the night?
Why Do Hit-and-Run Accidents Happen?
Drunk driving is one of the primary causes of car accidents in the U.S., including hit-and-runs. An estimated 31% of car crash deaths happen due to drunk driving. The latest NHTSA statistics show that 28 people die in drunk-driving accidents every day. Most of these accidents happen over weekends.
Other factors that play into car accidents include reckless driving, like speeding or refusing to obey traffic signals. People who drive without a license may not have the required driving experience or knowledge to operate a vehicle safely. Some motorists drive while fatigued or distracted. Others text and drive, which takes their attention away from the road and possible hazards.
Sometimes, severe weather or poor road conditions also lead to an otherwise preventable accident. However, no matter the root cause of a hit-and-run accident, the worst part of it is that these drivers flee the scene without checking on the victim.
Why Do Drivers Flee Accident Scenes?
Looking at the causes of car accidents, it becomes clearer why drivers panic and flee the scene. Drunk drivers do not want to get a DUI conviction, which is what will happen when the police arrive. Also, if a driver has previous DUI convictions, they are even more likely to drive away after hitting someone. If there are no witnesses or security cameras around the accident scene, it is also possible that the driver will never turn themselves in.
Uninsured drivers who cause accidents may receive a citation. They could also lose their license. In this situation, a driver may also drive away after causing an accident to avoid these consequences. Drivers with outstanding warrants will also flee to avoid an arrest.
Other situations that may cause a driver to drive off after an accident include staying in the U.S. illegally or being on parole.
Other times, drivers just panic, even though they are not drunk and don’t have any legal problems to worry about. They may see blood or obvious injuries on the victim, become overwhelmed, and drive away.
What to Do After a Hit-and-Run Accident
If you are the victim of a hit-and-run, you must stay at the scene even if the driver flees. Call the local police department to inform them of the accident. If you, a passenger or a bystander suffered an injury, call 911. Don’t worry too much about damage to your vehicle at this point. It is more important to get the medical help you or others may need.
Keep all the medical reports you receive from the doctor or emergency room. If the police track down the driver, you will need this information to help build a damages case.
If there is severe damage to your car, take photos as evidence. File a report with the police so you can claim from your insurance and for damages from the driver. Should the police be unable to find the driver, your insurance provider may cover most of the damages if you have uninsured motorist insurance. Collision protection may also help in this case.
Let the police know if you have any information to help them identify the driver. This may include the type of car the person drove, the license plate number, and the color of the vehicle. If you get a glimpse of the driver, try to remember details like hair color or clothing.
If the accident happened in a crowded area, try to find witnesses who can explain what happened to the police. If there are security or private cameras in the area, the footage may help you build a case against the driver.
Don’t forget to contact your lawyer when you’re ready to file a damages claim. This can only happen if the police identify the driver so they can be held responsible for their actions.
What to Do If You Cause an Accident
Being involved in a car crash is traumatic and frightening. If you cause an accident, don’t leave the scene even if you panic and the other driver or pedestrian suffers an injury. Instead of driving away, call 911 and the police. If there are no major injuries, try to move out of the way of traffic and exchange contact information.
Do not get into a screaming match with the driver or passengers from the other vehicle, especially if you are the one who caused the accident. Emotions often run high after an accident, but fighting will worsen the situation.
Allow the driver or pedestrian to take photos of your car and the surrounding area. Take your notes and photos if you believe the other driver or pedestrian is partly to blame for the accident. You must file a police report and inform your insurance company of the accident.
Never try to negotiate a settlement on the side of the road. Leave the legal proceedings to your lawyer and insurance adjuster. Lastly, wait for everyone to leave the scene before you drive off. This will ensure that you cannot be accused of a hit-and-run.
Preventing Hit-and-Run Accidents
Preventing hit-and-runs starts with responsible driving. If you have an existing DUI, don’t drive drunk again. If you are uninsured, get minimum-liability insurance as soon as possible.
Don’t drive while distracted, and don’t text and drive. Being responsible on the road makes it a safer place for everyone. And eventually, it will help reduce the rate of hit-and-runs in the U.S.