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Hit-and-Run Epidemic: What Can We Do to Help?

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English: The whole scene of a car crash, and r...

English: The whole scene of a car crash, and rescue teams in action in Maracaibo, by the year 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Imagine that your husband went for a bike ride around the park one Sunday morning and a van struck and dragged him nearly 600 feet, shearing off parts of his feet, wearing down large patches of his skin, and grinding off some of his fingertips as he grabbed the pavement in an attempt to free himself; or that your daughter was leaving a museum and was struck by a BMW with such force that her teeth were knocked out, her jaw snapped apart, and her kneecaps shattered; or your father tried to cross a busy intersection in his wheelchair and was hit and killed. Like the rest of us, you’d be shocked, worried, and upset, but you’d also be outraged when you discovered that the driver cared so little for human life that he or she fled the scene, leaving your loved one to suffer in the street.

These three stories are real and represent only a fraction of the tragedies suffered on our streets and sidewalks. The reality in Orange County, where hit-and-run drivers killed or injured 935 people in 2011, is grim, but it’s much worse in Los Angeles.

“Hit-and-Run Capital of the Country”

Nationally, hit-and-run was a factor in 11 percent of crashes, but in Los Angeles drivers fled the scene in 48 percent of collisions, according to L.A. Weekly. Likening the problem to an epidemic, the publication reported that 20,000 hit-and-run accidents occurred each year, and 4,000 resulted in injury or death.

Last year, more than 21,000 hit-and-run crimes were recorded, with more than 1,200 causing injury and 41 resulting in death-lives and families City Councilman Joe Buscaino may have been thinking about when he said, “Los Angeles has ‘the distinction of being the hit-and-run capital of the country,'” at a recent meeting of the Public Safety Committee concerning a proposed program that would offer rewards of up to $50,000 for information that could help lead to the arrest and conviction of hit-and-run drivers.

Under the proposal, awards of up to $1,000 would be offered for hit-and-run accidents involving property damage, $25,000 for those causing injury, and $50,000 for those resulting in death. The LAPD and city attorney are expected to submit a detailed plan for the pilot program to the Public Safety Committee in two months, reported the Los Angeles Times.

How Can We Help?

Essentially, the proposed program would be rewarding the public for what we should all be doing anyway: helping to catch those who’ve left family members, friends, and coworkers for dead on the side of the road. Considering how crucial tips are to solving these cases, the added incentive could sway some who would be turning in a friend or loved one or who otherwise wouldn’t call.

‘Witnesses are paramount in an investigation like this,’ LAPD Detective Felix Padilla, who specializes in hit-and-run accidents, told ABC News. ‘We can arrest the car, meaning I can impound it. But what good is that if I don’t have the person who was driving, you know?’

Hopefully, the pilot program is eventually implemented, but until then and whether we live in Los Angeles or Orange County or anywhere, we should all consider that the victims of these accidents could be our own sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, or spouses, and do all that we can to help catch those who hurt them.

Additional articles on the incidence of and legal issues concerning hit-and-run accidents are available to the public free of charge through our office. To request one of these free resources, please call 888-752-7474 or complete our online contact form.

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