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TOWSON, MD (April 26, 2018) – More than one hit-and-run crash occurs every minute on U.S. roads, according to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. These crashes resulted in 2,049 deaths in 2016 – the highest number on record and a 60 percent increase since 2009.
With the number of hit-and-run crashes on the rise, AAA is calling for drivers to be alert on the road in order to avoid a deadly crash and always remain on the scene if a crash occurs.
AAA researchers examined common characteristics of hit-and-run crashes and found that:
An average of 682,000 hit-and-run crashes occurred nationwide each year since 2006.
Nearly 65 percent of people killed in hit-and-run crashes were pedestrians or bicyclists.
Hit-and-run deaths in the U.S. have increased an average of 7.2 percent each year since 2009.
Per capita, New Mexico, Louisiana and Florida have the highest rate of fatal hit-and-run crashes while New Hampshire, Maine and Minnesota have the lowest rates, with Maryland trending on the higher side of the spectrum.
In Maryland, on average over a five-year period from 2012-2016, there were 26 hit-and-run crashes that involved at least one fatality, reflecting a four percent increase over the previous five-year average from 2007-2011.
“Unfortunately, hit-and-run crashes in the United States are trending in the wrong direction with the AAA Foundation’s analysis showing that hit-and-run crashes are a growing traffic safety challenge,” said Ragina Cooper Averella, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “AAA would like to work with all stakeholders to help curtail this problem. By working together, we can bring awareness and identify potential solutions to reduce hit-and-run fatalities.”
Averella was a victim herself of a hit and run crash last spring while slowing to make a right turn into a parking lot in Fallston, less than a half mile away from a Maryland State Police Barracks. While not noticeably injured, Averella’s vehicle did suffer extensive damage. Because the crash happened so quickly, she was unable to capture a license plate number or identify the make and model of the vehicle, thus the driver was never found.
“It is every driver’s legal and moral responsibility to take necessary precautions to avoid hitting another vehicle, pedestrian, or bicyclist,” said Averella. “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.”
The report found that most victims of fatal hit-and-run crashes are pedestrians or bicyclists. Over the past 10 years, nearly 20 percent of all pedestrian deaths were caused by hit-and-run crashes compared to just one percent of all driver fatalities in that same time period.
To decrease the chances of being involved in a crash with a pedestrian or 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 and 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.
Currently, every state has laws that make it illegal for a driver involved in a crash to flee the scene. State penalties vary depending on the type of crash (i.e. property damage, injury, serious injury or a fatality). If found guilty, drivers can face large fines, lose their license or spend time in prison. AAA encourages drivers to educate themselves about specific hit-and-run laws in their state and remain alert on the road to prevent crashes from occurring.
In Maryland, motorists involved in a crash are required by law to remain on the scene, render aid, and provide information, such as driver’s contact and insurance information. If the vehicle is unattended, Maryland law requires that the driver undertake reasonable efforts to locate and notify the owner of the damaged vehicle or leave a note with contact information in a conspicuous place on the vehicle or other damaged property.
If a driver in Maryland does not stop for a crash that results in damage, penalties upon conviction include up to two months in jail and/or a fine up to $500. If the crash results in minor injuries and a driver leaves the scene, the penalty and fine is the same; however, for serious injuries, a driver faces a felony charge, and if convicted, the penalty is prison time up to five years, and/or a fine up to $5,000. A felony charge applies as well if a driver leaves the scene of a fatal crash with jail time increasing up to 10 years and the fine up to $10,000.
If a driver is involved in a crash, they should never leave the scene and follow the steps below:
- Assist the injured- Check for injured people and call 911.
- Be visible- Make sure that the scene is visible to approaching drivers. If possible, move vehicles out of the path of traffic, and use hazard flashers, flares, and reflective triangles. Find a safe place to remain until emergency services arrive, if needed.
- Communicate- Call the police and file a report. If the police do not come to the scene, you can file a report by visiting a local police department or your automobile insurance agency.
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AAA provides automotive, travel and insurance services to 58 million members nationwide and more than 937,000 members in Maryland. AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years. The not-for-profit, fully tax-paying member organization works on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, discover discounts, book a hotel and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. For more information, visit AAA.com.