National data shows that while traffic accidents are down overall, there has been a surreptitious rise in the number of fatal hit-and-run accidents. A hit-and-run occurs when the at-fault driver flees from the scene of the crash and experts say that they often involve someone who was driving and driving at the time of the crash.
Over a three-year period there was a more than 13 percent increase in hit-and-run deaths even while traffic deaths on the whole decreased by 4.5 percent. Here in California the problem has been particularly pronounced. For example, in Los Angeles nearly half of all car crashes in the city involved a driver who fled from the scene of the accident.
As a result of this increase, one California lawmaker proposed a change to the statute of limitations, allowing hit-and-run crashes to be prosecuted for up to six years from the time of the crash. The current version of the law sets the statute at just three years.
Experts say that most people don’t realize how serious the problem is. Individuals are more likely to flee from the scene of a crash when they have a specific reason, such as fear of being apprehended for drinking and driving or driving without a license. However, the other driver is often in the best position to call for help when an accident has occurred and fleeing the scene can extend the amount of time between a serious impact and emergency responders and police arriving to aid the injured victims.
Drivers who flee the scene of the accident because they were acting negligently can face serious civil penalties as well as criminal prosecution. Victims have a right to seek compensation, whether it is by an injured person for their pain and medical costs or by a family for the loss of a loved one.
Source: USA Today, “Fatal hit-and-run crash on rise in U.S.,” Larry Copeland, Nov. 10, 2013