Based on information provided by the California Highway Patrol, San Diego has reported more than 17,000 hit-and-run collisions countywide between 2008 and 2012. Of the 7,000 drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists who were injured in those cases, 57 died from their injuries.
So far in 2014, there have been 11 fatalities caused by hit-and-run drivers in San Diego County. That number may seem low, but consider the fact that it is only June, and the number is already higher than the average for the last five years. The sudden spike in hit-and-run fatalities has been called an “epidemic” by some news outlets, and authorities are anxious to discover what is behind the increase.
Why Do Drivers Flee the Scene?
The San Diego Police Department does not track hit-and-run cases once they reach the courts, so they cannot provide information about what leads drivers to flee the scene of an accident.
Based on eight years of experience trying similar cases, a San Diego County district attorney believes that alcohol is the most common factor for hit-and-run cases. Ironically, harsher sentences for drug and alcohol involvement can encourage some drivers to flee the scene rather than risk incarceration.
Sometimes drivers do not stop because they are driving without a valid license or without insurance, and want to avoid legal trouble.
Hit-and-run accidents that occur without drug or alcohol involvement can still be charged with vehicular manslaughter, reckless driving, fleeing the scene of an accident causing injury and other serious charges.
In San Diego, the standard sentence for a hit-and-run is six months to a year in prison and probation upon release. If alcohol and drugs are involved, defendants could face substantially higher sentences, including 20 years to life.
What Can the Police Do About Hit-And-Runs?
The six detectives assigned to the San Diego traffic division say that budget constraints and lack of manpower can make investigating hit-and-runs next to impossible. Clues like paint chips, broken glass and road debris from the crash can all provide leads, but most times the officers do not recover much physical evidence. Once the trail goes cold, the case becomes even more difficult to solve.
In mid-May, Anouchka Mihaylova and her husband were walking to their favorite restaurant when a silver vehicle traveling westbound jumped the curb and struck her, then fled the scene. The 62-year-old Bulgaria native was a professor in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of California, San Diego, and she was heavily involved with research to create an artificial heart. Police say the vehicle may have front-end damage and a missing side mirror, but other than that, they have very few leads.
The real crime of a hit-and-run driver is rarely ever the initial accident, but their refusal to stop and render aid to victims. By refusing to call for help, hit-and-runs can easily escalate from injuries to fatalities, because the victim does not receive timely medical care.
Families of hit-and-run victims need to know that even if the driver cannot be found criminally liable, reckless drivers can still be held accountable through a civil trial. To discuss a hit-and-run collision or any other vehicle accident, do not hesitate to call Dudek Law Firm. Attorney Frederick M. Dudek has years of experience finding justice for victims of car accidents, and he is willing to fight for you.
[Did You Know: Pedestrians are the victims in 18 percent of fatal hit-and-run accidents.]
Dudek Law Firm, APC – San Diego Personal Injury Attorneys