Hit-and-Runs: Why They Don’t Get Solved and How to Change That

November 18, 2021

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Hit-and-Runs: Why They Don’t Get Solved and How to Change That

Did you know that a hit-and-run happens every 43 seconds? These incidents may involve two cars where one flees, or one car striking a pedestrian or cyclist and leaving before offering any help or calling the police. Often the person at fault doesn’t report the crash, leading to the victim suffering more severe injuries due to a lack of timely medical attention. Some hit-and-runs don’t involve victims, such as a scraped car with no note left behind.

Hit-and-runs accounted for over 5% of traffic fatalities. And according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, close to 65 percent of those involved in a hit-and-run crash and killed were pedestrians or bicyclists.

Many factors go into hit-and-runs

Despite laws in place in every state that make it illegal to leave the scene of a crime, hit-and-run suspects typically do so for fear of consequences. For example, according to AAA, drivers who leave the scene are up to nine times more likely than those who remain to have been under the influence at the time of the accident. 

However, fleeing the accident makes it much worse for the suspect, leading to increased fines and time in jail. Studies have shown that young men with a history of DWI or other driver suspensions are the most likely to be involved in a hit-and-run. 

A few of many possible factors that may contribute to a hit-and-run:

  • Current intoxication level or prior DWI.
  • A suspended or expired license, or no driver’s license
  • Uninsured status 

Just like with all traffic accidents, roadway conditions, visibility, time of day, or area density may contribute to the likelihood of hit-and-runs as well. Urban areas with poor pedestrian conditions — think a lack of safe crossings, sidewalks, street lamps, and safe speed limits also contribute to unsafe scenarios for hit-and-runs. 

Unfortunately, hit-and-run accidents are trending up. Hit-and-run deaths in the U.S. have increased by an average of 7.2 percent each year since 2009. 

The difficulty of solving a hit-and-run

Once the dust settles and the police get involved, it’s still challenging to obtain reliable information. A typical hit-and-run victim does not have the wherewithal to take note of vehicle details or serve as a viable witness — shock, injury, and temporary memory loss are also common. 

Studies have estimated that only about 10 percent of hit-and-run cases are solved, due to an overwhelming lack of evidence. In 2017, the LAPD reported solving just eight percent of hit-and-runs. 

Other factors affecting this low clearance rate are not having enough sworn officers or investigators, and distrust in the police or fear of retaliation preventing credible witnesses from coming forward.

Obtaining real evidence to solve a hit-and-run

The most salient and useful lead for an investigator looking into a hit-and-run case is a detail or details about the vehicle involved in the crash. Pictures of the scene, brake marks, video recordings, broken glass, or photos can all help find the culprit. 

Dashboard cameras, or dash cams, have increased in popularity in recent years, as they provide evidence of any road incident that may happen. Some of them come with GPS functionality and the ability to download footage that may help solve hit-and-runs.

But dashboard cameras are not yet ubiquitous — only a certain percentage of the population has taken this extra step to protect themselves. 

At Flock Safety, we know that eyewitnesses are hard to come by. Meanwhile, there is no better piece of evidence than detailed license plate and vehicle information. Most security cameras aren’t able to capture the license plate on a moving vehicle, a vital part of the evidence in a hit-and-run case.

Automated License Plate Reader (ALPR) cameras allow law enforcement officers to solve burglaries, car break-ins and catch repeat offenders. Or, in this case, help solve a hit-and-run, help the victim get damages, and capture the suspect.

Ready to find out how Flock Safety cameras can fit into your agency’s safety plan? Reach out to Flock Safety today.

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