Who is at Risk for a Hit and Run Injury?
Hundreds of thousands of hit-and-run accidents occur in the United States each year. While a hit-and-run may involve property damage only, a collision with another car, or hitting a motorcyclist or bicyclist, most hit-and-run victims are pedestrians. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 24% of pedestrian fatalities in 2021 were hit-and-runs. In raw numbers, that is 1,802 people killed by drivers who left the scene.
The most significant issue with a hit-and-run is that a pedestrian hit by a car could potentially be saved, but may have died or deteriorated significantly before they are discovered. Driving away and leaving somebody gravely injured on the side of the road is difficult for most people to imagine. So, why do hit-and-run accidents happen and when and where are they most likely to occur?
When and Where do Hit and Run Accidents Happen?
Of course, a hit-and-run accident can happen at any time and place. However, they are more common at certain times of the day, and in certain types of locations.
Most Hit and Run Fatalities Happen at Night
Pedestrian fatalities, whether hit and run or not, are more likely to occur in the middle of the night. Hit-and-run pedestrian deaths are more than twice as likely to occur in the dark. While there is no conclusive data on the reasons for these differences, experts speculate that one reason is the lower visibility at night, increasing the driver’s ability to leave the scene undetected. Similarly, there may be less traffic on the road at that hour and few pedestrians, meaning few witnesses. Late night drivers may also be more likely to be driving under the influence or engaged in some other activity that they do not want discovered.
Other variables, such as day of the week and season of the year have not been found to correlate significantly with the incidents of hit and run pedestrian fatalities.
Both the Type of the Road and the Surroundings Impact the Likelihood of a Pedestrian Hit and Run
Hit-and-run pedestrian fatalities are more common on roads with lower speed limits. Even on higher-speed roads, pedestrian fatalities are more likely to occur at places where the speed limit is lowered, such as a curve or overpass. Researchers have speculated that the reason for this may be that pedestrians are more likely to cross the road at those points, though that may not be likely or possible for all of the listed locations. Hit-and-run fatalities are also more common in areas with denser populations, which makes sense because those tend to be more heavily populated with pedestrians. Pedestrian fatalities without the hit-and-run element are also more common in these areas.
Who is Most Likely to be Killed by a Hit and Run Driver?
The likelihood that a driver will hit a pedestrian and flee the scene seems to be influenced by the perceived vulnerability of the victim. 70% of hit-and-run victims in which a single vehicle hit a single pedestrian are male. Fatally injured pedestrians who are younger than six or older than 80 are less than half as likely to be abandoned by the responsible driver as older children and younger adults. Hit-and-run drivers are also significantly more likely to be identified if the victim is under 16 or older than 75.
Avoiding Hit and Run Accidents as a Pedestrian
Safety measures for pedestrians avoiding hit and run accidents are largely the same as the safety tips for avoiding being hit by a car in general. That includes:
- Wearing light-colored or reflective clothing at night
- Crossing at crosswalks and observing traffic signals
- Walking sober – intoxication is a significant factor in pedestrian accidents
- Sticking to well-lighted areas when walking at night
- Avoiding distractions while walking, such as looking down at your phone
- Not using headphones that block out sound while you are walking
- If you must walk on the shoulder of the road, walk on the left side so you can see oncoming traffic
Liability for Hit and Run Accidents
A driver who hits a pedestrian and abandons them will be liable for the negligence in causing the accident, and also for any additional harm the pedestrian suffered as a result of the hit-and-run driver fleeing the scene without summoning help. However, only about half of hit-and-run drivers are ever identified. If the driver is identified, the injured pedestrian or surviving family members can pursue a lawsuit to collect damages. But, what if the driver is never found?
First, your personal injury protection insurance will cover medical costs and lost wages up to $8,000. This is true even if the driver is identified. If the driver is not identified, your uninsured motorist coverage kicks in. But don’t assume that because you’re dealing with your own insurance carrier, the process will be smooth. Your best first step after a hit-and-run accident is to consult an experienced Massachusetts hit-and-run lawyer.
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