According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, there has been a steady rise in hit and run deaths on U.S. roadways during the last ten years. Every year, the numbers of these fatalities increase. In 2016, more than 2,000 Americans lost their lives in more than half a million crashes where someone left the scene illegally. Nearly two-thirds of the people who died were either walking or riding a bicycle at the time of the collision.
Factors Affecting Hit and Run Deaths
Some safety experts suggest that the increase in the deaths of pedestrians and bicyclists is due to the lethal combination of two factors.
Increase in Walking and Riding Bicycles
For many reasons, more Americans are walking and riding bicycles. Some of these reasons include to save money, improve their health, and reduce the air pollution that motor vehicles create.
Across America, there are campaigns encouraging people to get out and walk or ride their bikes. Local and national news stories frequently tell us about our nation’s obesity statistics and that we need to get more exercise and lose weight.
These campaigns are having an impact, since bike ridership and walking numbers have increased 105% from 2000 to 2013, according to The League of American Bicyclists. This social change is good news, except for the fact that city planners have not kept up with the necessary infrastructure modifications to protect the increased amount of bike riders and pedestrians from motor vehicles.
Thanks to cell phones, mobile devices, and entertainment gadgets built into our vehicles. The distraction levels are so high that some drivers are oblivious to the fact that they have run a bike rider off the road or struck a pedestrian or bicyclist.
The Hit and Run Dilemma
Increased numbers of people walking and riding bikes and the higher distraction levels might explain the high number of fatalities, but those factors do not explain why a growing number of drivers illegally leave the scene, abandoning the person they injured or killed. While some drivers might not realize they hit someone or forced a rider off the road, others intentionally flee from the crash.
Possible Solutions for Hit and Run Accidents
The League of American Bicyclists suggests that cities across America improve and re-engineer their streets and highways with pedestrian and bicyclist safety in mind. Since we cannot control the behavior of drivers, we should try harder to keep walkers and bike riders out of harm’s way. Rather than designing roads with the goal of rapidly moving cars through areas, we should shift some of the attention to designing protective bike lanes and pedestrian walkways. Motor vehicle crashes kill more than 6,000 walkers and bicyclists a year, and a third of these are hit and run accidents.
We should not give up on trying to change drivers’ actions, the League cautions. Law enforcement should be more vigilant about cracking down on drivers using cell phones, navigation apps, and other distracting devices. More traffic cameras could provide photographic evidence of drivers who flee the scene of a crash. And the penalties for illegally leaving the scene of an accident should outweigh the consequences of staying, to provide incentives for not fleeing the crash.
If you or a loved one has suffered harm from a hit and run accident while riding a bike or walking, the Montero Law Center wants to help. Please call us at 1-954-767-6500 today to set up your complimentary consultation.