We all like to think that we are decent people. For example, if we get into a car accident, we hope we will take responsibility, even if it means risking a criminal charge. But the reality is that many drivers choose to flee the scene rather than stop to assist an injured motorist, bicyclist or pedestrian.
In fact, according to a recent report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, there were more than 2,000 “hit and run” accidents in the U.S. reported during 2016, which represents the largest such total since 1975, when the federal government started tracking such accidents as a separate category. This works out to one hit-and-run accident every 43 seconds. And according to numerous other studies, only about half of hit-and-run drivers are ever identified and caught by police.
Why Wouldn’t a Driver Stop?
It’s easy to cite statistics. But it’s more important to consider the victims of hit-and-run motor vehicle accidents. Recently a bicyclist was killed in Kyle, Texas, just south of Austin. According to news reports, the victim was a 53-year-old man. Police described the vehicle as a “charcoal gray Kia with damage on its front passenger side bumper” and a missing passenger side mirror. As of this writing, the hit-and-run driver has not been identified or arrested.
Tragic cases like this often lead people to ask, “Why would someone just leave an innocent person lying dead on the side of the road?” We don’t yet know the answer to this question in the case of the Kyle, TX accident. But speaking more generally, here are some of the reasons we’ve identified from hit-and-run drivers who were eventually caught:
- The driver did not have a valid driver’s license.
- The driver was driving with a suspended license.
- The driver was afraid they would get too many points on their license.
- The driver had been drinking or taking drugs just prior to the accident and did not want to risk a DWI charge.
- The driver did not have car insurance.
- The driver was afraid they would be arrested on an outstanding warrant.
- The driver was operating a stolen vehicle.
- The driver was operating a vehicle belonging to their employer and did not want their boss to learn they were in an accident.
Obviously, none of these excuses ever justify leaving the scene of an accident. And in fact, aside from potential civil liability, a person who is charged with fleeing the scene after an accident involving serious bodily injury or death can be charged with felony of the third degree. According to Texas Penal Code 12.34, the penalties of 3rd degree felony include 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Yet in the heat of the moment, many hit-and-run drivers do not think about doing what is right and instead act based on fear.
Filing a Police Report Following a Hit-and-Run Incident
If you ever become a victim of a hit-and-run accident, it’s important to file a detailed police report. Always provide the police with as much detail as you can about the driver, the vehicle and the how the scene unfolded. It is also helpful to identify any witnesses at the scene who can provide additional information.
Your next step should be to contact an Austin hit and run accident attorney who can help you with investigating the identity of your hit-and-run driver and assist you in seeking insurance benefits and additional damages. Contact DC Law by calling (512) 220-1800 and find out how a dedicated personal injury attorney can help.