Across the nation, hit-and-run accidents are on the rise. According to AAA, in 2009 there were 652,100 hit-and-run crashes, and six years later, in 2015, there were 737,100 hit-and-run crashes. The same study found that in 2006, hit-and-run fatalities made up 4.1 percent of all traffic fatalities, yet by 2016, hit-and-run fatalities made up 5.5 percent of all traffic fatalities.
These numbers clearly show that hit-and-run accidents are increasing, although there are differing opinions as to what has caused that increase. According to David Yang, the executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, hit-and-run crashes are a “growing challenge” in the area of traffic safety.
Yang notes that the per capita rate for hit-and-run fatalities is highest in New Mexico, Louisiana, and Florida, while the states with the lowest number of hit-and-runs per capita are New Hampshire, Maine, and Minnesota. Almost two-thirds of all those killed in hit-and-run accidents in the United States are pedestrians and bicyclists. In fact, over the past decade, a full one-fifth of all pedestrian deaths can be attributed to hit-and-runs. Obviously, no driver would want to be involved in a crash or have to admit they hit a pedestrian or a bicyclist, however leaving the scene of the accident only compounds the moral and legal issues associated with such an accident.
Distracted Drivers Causing More Hit-and-Run Accidents
According to an NBC News report, there is more than one hit-and-run accident every minute on the roadways across America. Many believe that neither drivers nor pedestrians, bicyclists nor motorcyclists are paying enough attention to the roads and those around them. Not only are drivers more and more distracted, pedestrians are also likely to have their attention on their phones, or to be walking with headphones on, listening to music. Both of these things make us much less alert to our surroundings.
Impaired Drivers and Young Drivers Most Likely to Leave the Scene of the Accident
Of course, impaired drivers may also be a factor in hit-and-run accidents; drivers who feel there is a reason to flee the scene of the accident are obviously much more likely to do so, and those who have had too much to drink or are driving under the influence of drugs, would have such a reason. Young drivers are also more likely to leave the scene of an accident than older, more experienced drivers. A young driver may fear the repercussions involved, making an impulsive decision to drive away from an accident.
State's Response to the Increase in Hit-and-Run Accidents
The state of California had what many officials called a “plague” of hit-and-run accidents, so decided to extend the statute of limitations for hit-and-run offenses from three to six years. Other states are also enacting tougher laws regarding hit-and-run accidents in an attempt to bring the numbers down.
Texas legislators moved to close a loophole that many believed actually encouraged impaired drivers to flee the scene of an accident. Prior to September 1, 2017, the maximum penalty for failure to render aid was half the maximum penalty for causing a drunk-driving collision death. The new laws increased the penalties for leaving the scene of an accident from a third-degree felony to a second-degree felony, with a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
The state of Florida is considering a bill that would impose a mandatory sentence of three years on hit-and-run drivers, seven years if someone is seriously injured in the crash, and ten years if someone dies in the crash. Colorado recently made hit and runs with serious bodily injury a Class 4 felony—the same penalty as for a drunk driving conviction, and Arizona enacted a law in 2012 which required any driver leaving the scene of a collision with serious bodily injury to have their licenses suspended for five years, or ten years if a death results from the hit and run accident.
Hit and Run Accidents in the State of Mississippi
If you are convicted of a hit and run in the state of Mississippi, you could face from 30 days to one year in jail, and a fine from $100 to $5,000. You could also have your driver’s license revoked for a period of time. If you leave the scene of an accident which resulted in a death or serious physical injury, you could face a felony charge, and, if convicted, from 5-20 years in prison and a fine from $1,000 to $10,000. If there are no injuries or deaths, only damage to a vehicle, then the crime of leaving the scene of an accident in the state of Mississippi is a misdemeanor.
Avoiding a Hit-and-Run Accident
Drivers must first and foremost slow down in areas where pedestrians and bicyclists are prevalent, then must focus their attention on driving rather the dozens of other distractions we seem to find to occupy our attention while driving. Cell phones—whether talking or texting—should always be put in the glove box or in the back seat to lessen the temptation to use the phone while driving. Parents should pull off the road if they need to check on a child, or pick up a bottle or toy, and meals should be eaten at home, rather than on the road.
Pedestrians may not always act in a predictable manner, particularly small children who can dart in front of a vehicle in a mere fraction of a second. If you are involved in a crash, it is imperative that you remain on the scene, assist those who are injured, and call 911. When possible, move vehicles out of the path of traffic, and use hazard flashers, reflective triangles, and flares to alert approaching drivers and avoid another accident. While it can be frightening to realize you have hit a pedestrian, a bicyclist, a motorcyclist, or another vehicle, leaving the scene of the accident is never the answer. Do what you know to be right by staying on the scene and rendering aid, then contact an experienced Mississippi criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Contact Our Mississippi Criminal Defense Lawyers
If you or someone you love has been arrested and charged with a hit-and-run crime in Mississippi, we can help. At Coxwell & Associates, PLLC, our attorneys believe in fighting aggressively for our clients and we can build a defense that is designed to expose the holes in the prosecution’s case against you. Contact Coxwell & Associates today at (601) 265-7766 or click here.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.