The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that fatal hit-and-run crashes reached the highest point on record in 2016, increasing more than seven percent every year since 2009.
These statistics rank Texas within the top 10 for states with the most hit-and-run accidents per capita.
Texas ranks eighth in the country with the most hit-and-run deaths
The AAA report says an average of 682,000 crashes occurred each year since 2009, with nearly 65 percent of people killed in hit-and-runs. Most victims were pedestrians or bicyclists.
Weslaco, Texas police told local television that Hidalgo County averages between 200 and 250 hit-and-run crashes per year. “It’s no surprise one of the main contributing factors might be the fact that Texas is ranked high as far as DWI arrests,’’ said Weslaco police department spokesman Eric Hernandez.
About every 20 minutes in Texas, someone is hurt or killed in a vehicular crash involving alcohol. In 2016, 987 people died in alcohol-related incidents, including 56 pedestrians and bicyclists. There were 143 passengers killed in vehicles driven by drunk drivers. Safety experts attribute the increase in fatalities to a stronger economy and more people on the road. Others point to a growing number of bicycle commuters, saying that fatal crash rates for bicyclists and pedestrians could be rising because more road users are distracted by smart phones.
AAA also stated that research on hit-and-run drivers is limited because those at fault often get away. “Oftentimes we don’t know who those hit-and-run drivers are,’’ said Jack Nelson of AAA. “We only know what we know about the victims.’’
Illegal in every state
According to CBS, some research shows the driver in a deadly crash is more likely to be a young male with prior history of driving under the influence and license suspension, and driving an older-model car. Studies found drivers who leave the scene are between two and nine times more likely to have been intoxicated at the time of the crash.
Every state has laws that make it illegal for a driver involved in a crash to flee the scene. Colorado and some cities in California send out alerts through texts, email, local television and radio if a driver is involved in a hit-and-run.
To decrease the chances of being involved in a crash with a pedestrian or a bicyclist, drivers should:
- Be aware: Pedestrians may act unpredictably and can walk into the path of travel at any point.
- Be cautious: Look out for small children and be alert to areas where there are likely to be more pedestrians. These include school zones, playgrounds, bus stops and intersections.
- Be patient: When trying to pass a pedestrian or cyclist, give plenty of space to keep them in your line of sight.
- Be vigilant: Drivers should always yield to pedestrians, even if they walk into the road from an area other than a crosswalk.
“It is every driver’s legal and moral responsibility to take necessary precautions to avoid hitting a pedestrian, bicyclists or another vehicle,’’ said Jennifer Ryan, director of state relations for AAA. “While no one likes being involved in a crash, leaving the scene will significantly increase the penalties for drivers, whether they caused the crash or not.’’
If you are in need of legal help after an accident, contact Coby L. Wooten, Attorney at Law, in Fort Worth and Dallas.