California Hit-And-Run Accident Facts & Tips
A hit-and-run crash occurs when a driver responsible for a vehicle collision leaves the scene of the collision before exchanging necessary information, offering aid to injured parties, reporting the crash, or communicating with authorities.
These incidents often have serious consequences, ranging from extended road delays to the death of a neglected injured party.
Thus, it is no surprise that hit-and-run violations are criminal offenses in California under California Vehicle Code 20002.
Hit-and-runs, as a misdemeanor, can carry a maximum sentence of up to six months in county jail, a maximum fine of $1,000, or both. These misdemeanors can also result in probation lasting up to three years, restitution for property damage, and two points on a California driving record.
How Common Are They?
Driving on public roads requires a degree of trust in nearby drivers. Although we do not know our fellow commuters, we tend to have faith that in the event of a collision, they will do the “right thing.” This can include staying at the scene to exchange insurance information or helping someone in need until paramedics arrive.
However, recent data from the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) seems to suggest that this trust is entirely misplaced.
An analysis of this data conducted by AAA's Foundation for Traffic Safety discovered that both the rates of hit-and-run crashes and fatalities are rising. In 2015, documented hit-and-run crashes totaled 737,000 (NHTSA, 2016) which amounts to a crash occurring approximately every 43 seconds in the United States.
In 2016, over 2,000 hit-and-run-related fatalities were reported. This was the highest number of deaths resulting from hit-and-runs ever recorded in U.S. history (NHTSA, 2017). The table below illustrates how these numbers compares to previous years from which they have steadily risen.
On average, U.S. hit-and-run deaths have increased an average of 7.2% annually since 2009. Furthermore, California is leading the trend. Of the 2,049 fatalities that resulted from hit-and-runs in 2016, over 16% belonged to California alone. This is the highest contribution of any U.S. state and was a 60% increase over the state's 2009 recorded death rates.
Who Is At Risk?
All drivers and pedestrians run the risk of being victim to a hit-and-run accident. However, some groups are more vulnerable than others. According to AAA data:
- 65% of hit-and-run deaths belonged to cyclists and pedestrians
- New Mexico, Louisiana, California and Florida have the highest per-capita rate of fatal hit-and-run accidents
- New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Maine have the lowest per-capita rate of fatal hit-and-run accidents
How To Minimize Your Risk
- Remain vigilant: Whether a driver or a pedestrian, it is crucial that you maintain an adequate awareness of your surroundings at all time. Almost all hit-and-run accidents occur due to a lack of focus and attention.
- Stay on the right side: If you are driving in an unfamiliar neighborhood at night, bicycle lanes, intersections, and turns may confuse the foreign driver. In these instances, slow down and make sure that you are driving in the appropriate lane. Many nighttime drivers mistake bicycle lanes for vehicle lanes, resulting in the above statistic about cyclist and pedestrian deaths. If you are a pedestrian, make sure you are walking against traffic. This means that you will see any oncoming cars and will have a chance to evade a vehicle that veers off course. Pedestrians with their backs to vehicles may not notice their presence until it is too late.
- Have proper equipment: Drivers must ensure that their tires, breaks and headlights are all in working order before traveling. Pedestrians are encouraged to wear bright-colored clothing when walking near roads, and it is a great idea to wear a reflective vest at night. Cyclists should always have rear and front reflectors mounted on their bikes.
- Patience: While passing a pedestrian or cyclist, always provide plenty of space and time for them to complete their maneuvers. Many hit-and-run crashes are perpetrated by those in a rush.
- Sober driving: One of the largest contributors to these types of accidents are drugs and alcohol. If you are under the influence of either, it is illegal to operate your vehicle. Instead have a sober friend drive you home or call a ride-share service such as Uber or Lyft.
Call An Accident Injury Lawyer Today
If you or a loved one were injured as a result of a hit-and-run accident, it is important that you contact an accident injury lawyer right away. We will inform you on what steps must be taken in order to set you on the optimal path toward recovery.
The expertise of our attorneys also enables our clients to obtain a fair settlement. These settlements reduce the financial stress associated with vehicle collisions and injury. Call our office today to request a free consultation with one of our seasoned attorneys.