FHP Kicks Off 'Stay At The Scene' Campaign
February is Hit-and-Run Awareness Month, and a new awareness campaign in Florida is focusing on reducing the number of fatalities in such crashes.
Hit-and-run fatalities in Florida increased by more than 18% in 2020, even as total hit-and-runs decreased by 13% compared to the previous year.
“[The year] 2020 revealed that we had 91,000 hit-and-run crashes which basically says in Florida, 91,000 people leave the scene of a crash,” said Lt. Jason King with the Florida Highway Patrol’s Troop-A. “Two hundred-fifty-four fatalities and 921 serious bodily injuries.”
King adds it’s not just those driving cars and trucks, the less protection around you, the more vulnerable you are.
“As far as the 254 fatalities, 137 of them were pedestrians, and 25 were bicyclists; that is actually a 63% increase,” King said.”
The causes of hit-and-run accidents are varied — both from outside the vehicle to inside them.
“We’ve been blessed to have these nice, comfortable plush vehicles to ride in, which are somewhat of detractions themselves,” said King.
There’s no grey area when it comes to Florida law addressing hit-and-run. Being in an accident sometimes reveals its own penalties, fines and charges. But King says leaving the scene exacerbates the situation.
“If you leave the scene of a crash with just damages to someone else’s property, you’re looking at a second degree misdemeanor; if you leave the scene of a crash with injuries, this thing bumps up to a third degree felony, King said. “Then that leads us to the worst one of all: drivers leaving the scene of a crash with a fatality, you could face up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine on top of that.”
Vulnerable road users are particularly at risk of hit-and-run crashes. Of the 254 H&R fatalities in 2020, 162 were either pedestrians or bicyclists.— FLHSMV (@FLHSMV) February 4, 2021
Motorists, watch for vulnerable road users. If in a crash, always #StayAtTheSceneFL and call for aid.https://t.co/TGWri2Dqm3 pic.twitter.com/yCCdqT5EA9
The vast majority of hit-and-run fatalities — 85% — occur at dawn, dusk or at night, according to a Florida motor vehicle study. Motorists are urged to drive safely and look twice for vulnerable road users, especially in low visibility. But if the unthinkable happens and you’re in an accident, King says resist any urge to flee.
“A lot of things happen,” said King. “People get scared, they get nervous [and] they get worried. This is a traumatic situation for them when they’re involved in a crash. We ask that you stay calm, remain at the scene, make sure yourself and the occupants of your car are OK. If you need medical attention, call 911.”
Before getting out of your vehicle, make sure it’s safe to do, and avoid “secondary crashes” – where drivers become pedestrians and get hit by a car. King says that happens especially around interstates.
“Make sure the area is safe before you get out; call Highway Patrol [*347], we’re on the way, we’ll help you get it cleaned it up and try to help make everything as calm and as safe as possible,” said King. “Our main goal is just to encourage staying at the scene; if you have to pull over to a safe area. You can get out of the car — once it’s safe — and stand behind guardrails. Just please stay.”
Other FHP activities this month include a page on the Patrol’s website, and reaching out to Floridians to help them solve the open cases that will be listed there.
“We’re going to be enforcing and investigating; we have a designated investigator here in Troop-A, and her job is to follow up on all the crashes that involve leaving the scene,” said King. “To try to find justice for the parties involved and just to hold people accountable. So we’re really trying to hone in on our investigation, our enforcements and our education.”
Even a small tip, says FHP Lt. Jason King, can help solve a hit-and-run case. Those with such information can *FHP or anonymously to Florida Crime Stoppers by **TIPS.