Accident to Crime

Talk to anyone who has been driving for more than two years and the chances are they have been in an accident (either they caused it or they were hit). Except for severe cases, there is a protocol to be followed after an accident happens. Put on your hazard lights, pull over (or follow the car in front of you), get out of the car, make sure everyone is okay, exchange your information, and maybe call the police. Seems easy enough, right? Even if you skip a few steps of the protocol, it is alright; but not pulling over and driving off (aka a hit and run) is NEVER acceptable. In fact, if caught after fleeing from the scene the person’s driver’s license can be revoked for a lifetime, and sentenced to jail. Also the moment one party leaves an accident without stopping, it is no longer an accident, but a crime scene. Now you might be thinking: why is she talking about a hit and run? Isn’t this an AP Government blog? Well, originally I was going to blog about something else, but yesterday I was in a hit and run accident. While the person did not cause too much damage, the fact that the person would flee the scene irks me to no end. This irritation lead me to find statistics about hit and run accidents, and what the government is doing to stop them.

Police report that 11% of accidents reported each year are hit and runs. What is even scarier is that a majority of these hit and runs are cases where pedestrians are struck, and that has resulted in 1500 deaths annually in the United States. Why would people run? According to law websites, it a myriad of emotion: shock, fear, shame, that causes a person to flee from the scene of the crime. They could also already be in trouble with the law or drunk.  More information about the mindset behind the drivers who run away can be found at these websites: InjuryBoard and Maryland Criminal Law Part 1 and Part 2.

While the United States government has put in policies to punish people who flee from an accident, what about policies to actually catch the driver? If you do not see the license plate then you are not in luck. One solution is for the government (the local or state) to install cameras at all of the major intersections. Yes, this would be a cost a bit to install, but as technology improves basic cameras become cheaper. Some would argue this is a violation of privacy, but it is not. In no way would these camera’s be watching you while you are in the privacy of your own home, but while you are about with many other people around. That brings me to my second solution. Create higher incentives for witnesses to take down the driver’s license plate number. My third solution goes back to the Driver’s Ed. For most of us it seems common sense to stay at the scene of the crime, but if teachers could drive staying at the scene into our heads at an early age then maybe the number of hit and runs would decrease. Of course, for this to happen, parent taught lessons would no longer be an option (which could be a good thing).  Whatever the government’s course of action is, it needs to be taken soon before any more people suffer because others will not take responsibility for their actions.

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10 comments

  1. A similar argument works for having a camera in every public place. Seems like London, England, has gone this direction and at least from what I have heard in the news there are very mixed feelings about this in the country. I have to admit that I would be nervous about those traffic cameras that are supposed to be used for catching criminals actually being used for other purposes that we wouldn’t know. Maybe I would we ok with it if every person had access to every public camera any time they wanted. At least then a person would have access to the same knowledge as everyone else. Not my idea, actually. It was first raised by David Brin in his book “The Transparent Society”

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  2. Interesting problem you are highlighting and great ideas to solve the problem. Your first solution may be costly to manage, and incentives for witnesses would have to be strong enough to work.

    I like your third solution, which is that we are taught to be responsible. However, I think those that leave an accident always have their own reasons. For example, an interesting analysis would be to compare the hit-and-run data during times of economic prosperity to the data during economic recessions. That would be an great Excel graph, right? I bet you can already guess what you would find. Can you think of other data you could use? Doing an analysis of the people that run and their reasons, may lead you to the most effective solution.

    When I read your post I thought of this amazing story I recently read – it provides a different perspective on why people may run from an accident.
    http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2012/02/troopers_rescue_an_ex-marine_s.html

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  3. Suggest you start any post with summary of assignment.

    Seems to me third option depends upon responsibility that’s at present questionable. If raise this as option need to include suggestions to deal with this I’d think.

    How about dealing with vehicle options?

    Nice to have an opportunity to comment. Post quite well written with good information. #pblchat

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    • Thank you for the suggestion John. I want to improve my blogging, so it really helps. I am a little confused on what you mean by dealing with vehicle options. Do you mean the catching or punishing the vehicle that ran? Or do you mean the vehicle that was left behind? Can’t wait to hear back from you!
      Jennifer

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      • I am thinking about both or any car actually – a “thing” that would be added to all cars when they were made. I have definite thoughts but it’s your project. Hopefully something or something’s even will come to mind.

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  4. First of all, I am glad you are ok! Having experienced the problem of people not taking responsibility it makes sense to install cameras. Living in the Washington DC area, I know hit and run accidents are an issue and there are speed cameras in many locations. They are controversial however. I think education is a good start as well.
    Thanks for bringing this up and it is interesting to see how communities will spend money in the future.

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    • Thank you Kay for the concern! Don’t worry, I hurt my neck a bit, but I am fine. I have a question though; you said that people had different reactions to the camera, but does the majority of people support them, or oppose them?

      Sincerely, Jennifer

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  5. I actually know exactly how you feel about being in a hit and run. This past summer, I had only been driving for like 6 months with a license… And just my luck while switching lanes someone decides to speed up and not let me in when I’m practically half way in the other lane… On top of that this guy drove a huge heavy duty pick up truck.. leaving my car with a huge dent and in need of its fender being replaced and him leaving with not a scratch and just driving off. I luckily got the license plate number but that was no help either. because apparently this person was on the run and every time they went to a house where the car was registered they’d refer them to some where else. In the end I go no money out of it, we never found the person, and if found he’s in violation of a few laws, and I had my insurance grow up. Personally it just seems like an ethical thing to stay at the scene to make sure the person who hit you or you hit is okay, fleeing the scene would get you no where because you’re going to have to end up paying for the damage done for your vehicle. I completely understand where you’re POV is from in this post.

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  6. I think what Alex F. said about researching data about economic situations and the number of hit and runs would be interesting. Seeing that maybe when many are without jobs and tight on money they would not pull over being that it could cause a heavier economic stress on them. Not only is it against the law but it is one of those things you know is wrong before, during, and after you did it. The ability to help lower the rate of hit in runs is possible with the right knowledge and data, then the solution can be executed.

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  7. I could not agree with you more! It’s so ironic because I was just watching a story on the dallas news about how someone t-boned a car into a lake, then drove away and called his lawyer BEFORE the police… goodness get your priorities straight. I feel that cameras would be a great idea to keep people from trying to evade the law. Hopefully this problem gets solved so I won’t be the victim of an awful hit and run.

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