Hit-and-run accidents are a very common occurrence on the road. This is especially true in urban areas, where the population is higher than in rural areas. The number of hit-and-run accidents increases yearly, and the number of deaths and injuries from hit-and-run crashes increases each year. However, despite the prevalence of hit-and-runs, few drivers get arrested for their crimes. Often, the driver flees the scene for fear of being arrested and facing harsh penalties.
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Hit-and-run accidents are a very frightening experience. They often involve a car striking a pedestrian or cyclist and then fleeing the scene. These cases can be difficult to investigate and solve. Unless there are witnesses to the incident, or a vehicle is recovered, the police will have little evidence to charge the driver with a crime. In addition, some hit-and-run incidents don’t even involve the victim. For example, in the recent fatal hit-and-run accident in Brooklyn, the perpetrators hopped out of an SUV, tossed a bicycle in the back, and sped away. While the NYPD Collision Investigation Squad eventually investigated the case, the investigation never resulted in the arrest of the driver.
In New York City, the number of hit-and-run accidents has increased by 26 percent in the last five years. The problem has prompted Mayor Bill de Blasio to take action. His Vision Zero program is intended to prevent deadly traffic accidents and crack down on reckless drivers. But his efforts are criticized by safety advocates who say the NYPD doesn’t treat hit-and-run investigations as a priority.
Even though the number of hit-and-run crashes has increased, the number of arrests made for hit-and-runs has remained relatively steady over the past three years. Of the 36,000 hit-and-run crashes that occurred in 2013, only about a third of these incidents resulted in an arrest. During the same period in 2017, the NYPD made arrests in only 0.8 percent of the 46,000 hit-and-run crashes.
It’s important to note that most hit-and-run accidents are resolved through civil court. Occasionally, a driver may face criminal charges which can include first-degree vehicular manslaughter, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
The majority of hit-and-run incidents involve property damage. Regardless of whether or not the driver is arrested, the victim must have some kind of evidence to get a settlement. Victims who are not able to gather this information have to file Freedom of Information Law requests to gain access to their police reports.
When a crash is more serious, such as wrongful death or serious injury, the police will spend more time on the case. That’s because the case will require the investigators to recreate the accident. This can be a very labor-intensive process. Moreover, some hit-and-run victims are not viable witnesses because they don’t have the wherewithal to document the scene accurately.