A report released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety revealed that hit-and-run fatalities had increased 60 percent since 2009 and reached an all-time high of 2,049 in 2016. 65 percent of those killed were pedestrians or bicyclists.
Generally speaking, the charges stemming from a hit-and-run can be either a misdemeanor or a felony, usually depending on whether anyone suffered an injury in the accident. Punishment is also situational, but can range from monetary penalties to up to 15 years in prison, or some combination thereof. The idea behind the severity of the punishment is – as with all other criminal punishment – deterrence. Staying at the scene of an accident and rendering aid when necessary could be the difference between life and death for an individual. Additionally, it ensures that police do not have to expend resources tracking down the offender. Encouraging people to not flee the scene therefore may be beneficial to both the parties involved as well as the police.
However, families of those who are the victims of hit-and-run incidents do not believe the current punishment is enough, and that increases in penalties are necessary to encourage more compliance.
Individuals who do leave the scene of the accident not only expose themselves to additional criminal liability, they also run the risk of facing additional administrative penalties, as well as increased exposure from a civil liability standpoint. Hit-and-runs generally result in license revocation for some period of time, regardless of whether someone was injured or killed. An individual’s civil liability could also be greatly increased, as the harm could increase significantly in the absence of first aid and fleeing the scene may contribute to a jury’s willingness to award significant damages.
Drivers who were charged with a hit-and-run, regardless of whether misdemeanor or felony, or who were sued for damages, must take steps to ensure their rights are vigorously defended while also taking responsibility for their actions. The penalties in these situations are quite severe both monetarily and in terms of loss of freedom and therefore must be taken seriously.