Hit and runs are a plague around the United States. Tragic stories like this recent hit-and-run death in Pennsylvania are all too common, and anybody can be a hit-and-run victim at any moment.
Getting into a car accident can spur some pretty basic human instincts: If we feel we’ve done something wrong, our first impulse could be to flee the scene. But it should come as no surprise that fleeing the scene of a car crash can result in severe ramifications down the road. This article will take a look at those consequences.
What’s a Hit and Run?
While the exact definition of hit and run may vary by state, there is one thing that state laws have in common:
It is illegal to leave the scene of an accident without stopping to help anyone who may have been hurt or needs assistance.
If you are involved in a collision of any kind — even with no injuries or property damage — you are legally required to stop and give your name and contact information to the authorities.
It doesn’t matter if poor weather conditions, mechanical failure, or distracted driving caused the accident.
Hit People might think a hit and run is a minor infraction when it’s charged as a felony in many states. It’s a serious crime.
California Penal Code Section 20002 defines a hit and run as willfully leaving the scene of an accident after your actions caused damages to another vehicle or property. Many states that have laws applying to moving vehicles on the road.
However, these states also extend the laws to protect others’ property. In some states, if you cause damage to another person’s vehicle, you’re required to stop and exchange information. If you reverse into an unoccupied car in a parking lot, leave a note with your contact information on the windshield. Otherwise, state law may treat this as a hit and run.
Penalties for Leaving the Scene of an Accident
In a hit and run, the driver of a motor vehicle fails to stop their vehicle at the scene of an accident. Depending on the state you live in, this can result in a misdemeanor or felony charge of hit and run.
Most states define a felony hit-and-run as leaving the scene of an accident where there is any type of injury to a person, whether the injured person is a pedestrian or an occupant of a vehicle.
If you are found guilty of causing a felony hit and run accident, you could face serious penalties. Fines for this crime often reach $10,000 or more. And if you are charged with a second or third felony hit and run, you could wind up in prison for many years.
States typically revoke the license of a convicted hit-and-run driver for six months or more, depending on the severity of the crime. Depending on the driver’s state of residence and the crash circumstances, the license suspension period could extend to three years.
What to do if You’re a Victim of a Hit and Run
If you’re a victim of a hit and run, remain calm. Any collision can be devastating and bring out intense emotions including anger, fear, and anxiety. Try to think clearly and stay collected so that you can act with a clear plan. Remain at the scene of the accident, and don’t try to chase down the other driver. This is one of those situations where it’s better to be safe than sorry.
The best thing for you to do is to immediately move your vehicle safely off the road and see if you or any of your passengers need medical help. Try to remember as many details about the incident as possible. Identifiers such as the make and model of the vehicle, and the license plate number will benefit you if there’s a police report or insurance investigation.
A hit and run is serious business. To avoid all the legal ramifications of this, start by pulling your car over and contacting the authorities at the time of the incident. When you’re panicking in the moment, it can be tempting to try and skip out on your responsibility. However, remember that the consequences of causing property damage or injury to someone else will follow you around for the rest of your life.
One of the best ways to avoid these issues is to simply become a more mindful driver. At DriveSafe Online, we’re here to help you be the safest driver you can be. Knowing how to follow the rules of the road gives you the best chance of avoiding a hit-and-run accident. You can get started with a one-hour course for a low price, so there’s no excuse — sign up for online driver’s ed now to improve your awareness on the road and keep yourself out of trouble.