Hit and run accidents in Florida are increasing at an alarming rate. While no number of hit and run accidents is acceptable, both Hillsborough and Pinellas county have seen a sharp increase in hit and runs over the past three years. Hit and run accidents have increased over 21% from 2013 to 2016 in Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando, and Pinellas. Statewide, there was a 26% increase during the same time period.
Last year, the state saw almost 100,000 hit and run accidents. Thankfully, only 179 of those injured died as a result of their accidents. While many of these accidents include minor injuries or property damage, they still reveal a serious problem among some drivers—a lack of accountability.
Causes of Hit and Run Accidents
The reasons a driver may leave the scene of an accident vary. Often, fear of the consequences compels a driver to just leave after hitting someone or something. This may be because they know they are at fault or were participating in illegal behavior such as drunk driving or driving without a license. Some drivers may fear increased insurance premiums or points on their license.
While car accidents are scary for everyone, leaving the scene of an accident can worsen the situation. Individuals who leave the scene without calling for help endanger the other people involved in the accident. Those who abandon an injured person who later dies as a result of the injuries sustained in the accident face automatic jail time. Often, the consequences of staying and owning up to one’s mistakes are more lenient than the consequences of abandoning an accident scene.
The Stay at the Scene Campaign
In an effort to curb hit and run accidents, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles launched the Stay at the Scene campaign. It aims to increase awareness of hit and run penalties and to encourage drivers to wait for emergency personnel at the scene of an accident. With statistics and images that easily shareable on social media, the DHSMV hopes to increase awareness of the penalties and dangers associated with hit and runs and to shed light on the surprising increase in these types of accidents.
According to a recent Tampa Bay Times article, “Under Florida law, a driver must stop immediately at the scene of a crash on public or private property that results in injury or death. Leaving the scene of a crash is a felony and drivers, upon conviction, lose their licenses for at least three years and face a mandatory minimum of four years in prison.”
With staff committed to solving hit and run accidents, Florida Highway Patrol, along with the Hillsborough and Pinellas County Sheriff’s offices and the Tampa Police Department, are working hard to locate those individuals who flee accident scenes. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle also provides information to the public on their website in hopes of locating hit and run drivers.
At Winters & Yonker, we aim to help those injured because of someone else’s reckless or negligent actions or behaviors. This includes the victims of hit and run drivers.
If you have been injured because of a hit and run driver, you have legal options. While you will not be able to sue the responsible party until their identity has been discovered, a Tampa personal injury attorney can help reach a settlement with your insurer to help cover your medical bills and lost wages. Contact us today to learn more.