The Golden State has the 7th-highest rate of deadly hit-and-runs per capita, according to new report from AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
WALNUT CREEK, Calif — 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.
In California, there were 337 hit-and-run crashes involving at least one fatality in 2016, the latest year with available data. That total is the highest on record for the state, and the most in the nation. Texas (233) and Florida (206) were the only other states with more than 100 fatal incidents.
Per capita, California has the seventh largest rate of fatal hit-and-run crashes in the country. From 2006 to 2016, there were almost 3,000 hit-and-run crashes involving at least one fatality on our state’s roadways.
“This is a growing traffic safety challenge and trend that is moving in the wrong direction,” said Michael Blasky, spokesman for AAA Northern California. “As a safety advocate, AAA wants to bring awareness and identify potential solutions to reduce hit-and-run fatalities.”
Despite California’s record total in 2016, some cities are proving more effective at reducing traffic fatalities. In San Francisco, there were 20 total fatal crashes in 2017 – the lowest number in the city’s history. Still, 16 of the 20 deaths were pedestrians or cyclists, the most common hit-and-run victims.
“AAA found that most victims of fatal hit-and-run crashes are pedestrians or bicyclists, and over the last 10 years, nearly 20 percent of all pedestrian deaths were in hit-and-run crashes,” Blasky said.
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.
AAA researchers examined common characteristics of hit-and-run crashes and found that:
- An average of 682,000 hit-and-run crashes occurred 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.
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. 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.
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.
“It is every driver’s legal and moral responsibility to take necessary precautions to avoid hitting a pedestrian, bicyclist or another vehicle,” Blasky said. “It is incumbent on each and every one of us to stay alert, be aware of our surroundings and always stay on the scene if involved in a crash.”
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, established in 1947, is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, publicly-supported charitable educational and research organization. Dedicated to saving lives and reducing injuries on our roads, the Foundation’s mission is to prevent crashes and save lives through research and education about traffic safety. The Foundation has funded over 300 research projects designed to discover the causes of traffic crashes, prevent them and minimize injuries when they do occur. Visit www.AAAFoundation.org for more information on this and other research.
AAA Northern California offers a wide array of automotive, travel, insurance, DMV, financial services and consumer discounts to its 4 million members. AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers since it was founded more than 117 years ago. Visit AAA.com for more information.