A recent study by University of California at Berkeley found that hit-and-run fatalities are more likely to occur in the West and Midwest. As warm weather approaches, our team of bicycle accident attorneys examines why hit-and-runs are on the rise and what can be done to stop it.
The reason hit-and-runs are more common in Western and Midwestern states is multi-faceted; cities in these states are far less dense, making the possibility of no witnesses more likely. These states also have much more expansive infrastructure, with long stretches of high-speed-limit roads without lights and signs to dictate behavior.
Unfortunately, cyclists have the odds stacked against them on the road. Riders need to know the laws and abide by them, as do drivers and pedestrians, to keep the roads safe. The truth is, a motorist driving recklessly will do far more harm than a cyclist behaving recklessly; when a crash occurs, cyclists bear the brunt of the impact regardless of who was at fault.
In places like Colorado and California, the rise in cyclist hit-and-runs is particularly troubling, as these states have some of the highest rates of cyclists in the country. Between 2002 and 2012, the number of hit-and-run crashes involving cyclists rose 42%. According to data compiled by the LA Times, the majority of these crashes occurred in five neighborhoods: North Hollywood, Long Beach, Van Nuys, downtown Los Angeles, and Santa Monica.
In nearly all parts of the U.S. bicycles are considered "vehicles" under the law, and must abide by all rules of the road. In the worst scenarios - such as the fatal accident between a biker and pedestrian in San Francisco in 2012 - cyclists may be charged with felony vehicular manslaughter.
In 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported 49,000 cycling-related injuries (and many, many more unreported) and more than 725 deaths. Most fatal crashes occur at intersections, and at night.
Studies and general experience show that the greater number of cyclists on the road, the safer streets become. It makes riders more visible to motorists, as drivers become more used to negotiating space with cyclists. One university study showed that accidents involving cyclists and motorists were less likely to occur when more than 200 riders traveled through it each day.
Another university study found that drivers involved in hit-and-runs are most likely to be male, young and have prior convictions. Alcohol also plays a major factor in deciding to flee the scene of an accident. Unfortunately, types of hit-and-runs are among the most difficult cases for law enforcement to solve.
• Record the license plate number, or as much of it as possible on paper, or take a picture of it.
• Get off the road and call 911. Describe the car as accurately as possible. If the driver fled the scene, tell the dispatcher which direction the car was going and any physical attributes of the driver.
• Stay calm, some drivers may be intimidated by an angry victim and decide to flee.