A recent article in the Tampa Bay Tribune explores in detail one of the ugliest statistics about our state's traffic safety: In 35% of Florida car accidents, someone leaves the scene without stopping, according to 2006 numbers from the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. By contrast, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that California, another high-population state, had a hit-and-run rate of just 18% in 2002.
The article goes into detail, following one of St. Pete's two police investigators who work on hit-and-run accidents. The author, Jeff Klinkenberg, goes into detail about some of the trouble a hit-and-run can cause even in accidents that only cause property damage: High expenses for repairs that you didn't cause or expect. When an injury or a death is involved, both the costs and the feeling of betrayal are multiplied significantly. And despite what some Florida drivers seem to think, leaving the scene of an accident is always a crime, even if it only caused property damage. If the perpetrator is caught, he or she can expect higher insurance rates and points on his or her license; criminal charges are certain if there was a death.
According to the article, people leave the scene mainly out of fear of getting caught for other crimes, including driving drunk, driving on a suspended license, not having insurance or unrelated crimes. Younger drivers may be concerned about getting in trouble with their parents, while very elderly ones might truly not have noticed the accident. But as you know, none of these are excuses. In fact, they can make the consequences of a hit-and-run much worse if the perpetrator is caught. As with so many things, honesty is the best policy in auto accidents.
Because I work every day with Florida auto accident victims, I see firsthand the effects of drivers' irresponsible decisions to leave the scene of an accident. In addition to sticking victims with the repair and medical costs and betraying their trust, it can also cause problems with insurance coverage. If you or someone you love is a victim of a careless Florida driver who hit a vehicle and kept going, you have the right to help and answers. Contact my law firm, Cohn, Smith & Cohn, for a free evaluation of your case.