Across the U.S. people spend an average of 300 hours each year driving their cars. Even if you have a few years of driving experience under your belt, that’s still a lot of time to spend on the road.
No matter how careful you are behind the wheel, not everyone you share the road with is necessarily a responsible driver. In fact, some can be downright dangerous. A 2018 report released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety concluded hit-and-run fatalities hit a record high in the U.S. in 2016. To learn more, we explored how the number of fatal hit-and-run accidents has changed over the years, which time of year these accidents are the most prevalent, and which states have experienced the highest number of fatalities. Read on as we explore hit-and-runs and how they might be affecting drivers in your area.
Increases in Hit-and-Runs
Deadly car accidents can happen in the blink of an eye. In 2016, more than 37,400 people died as a result of fatal car crashes in America. Despite advancements in new-car safety technology, the number of people who’ve lost their lives in potentially avoidable car accidents has been on a steady incline since 2007. Among these tragic accidents, the number of deaths attributed to hit-and-runs has never been higher.
In 2012, the total number of hit-and-run fatalities involving at least two vehicles was 1,512. In 2013, hit-and-run fatalities increased by nearly 100 for a total of 1,606 deaths.
By 2016, the number of people involved in fatal hit-and-runs hit a grim record-high of 2,046.
Hit-and-Runs Over Time
Between September and October, you may be eagerly awaiting the change in temperature or Halloween festivities, but for the millions of people on the road every day, October can represent something entirely else: fatal hit-and-runs.
From 2014 to 2016, October marked the deadliest time of year for hit-and-run fatalities. Although the end of daylight savings time in November is typically attributed to an increase in drowsy driving (which can be more life-threatening than drunk driving in some cases), hit-and-run fatalities spiked in October – before the clocks roll back.
Earlier months have had fewer hit-and-run fatalities since 2012. For a couple of years, including 2016, January and March marked the two safest times of the year for these types of accidents.
For many, it’s hard to imagine what might be going through a person’s mind when deciding to flee the scene of a car accident, especially one where someone may be fatally injured. The specific laws vary from state to state on what repercussions a fleeing driver might face, but they range from misdemeanors to felonies.
Sadly, 60 percent of hit-and-run crashes have no identifying factors. Research tells us a lot about how often these tragic collisions occur, the number of lives impacted, and even how they might have been avoided, but it can’t tell us everything. In some cases, the driver may never be identified. There may be no witnesses to an accident, or the investigating officer may not be able to determine exactly what happened.
Still, the hit-and-run crashes officers can identify may be vastly different. More than 6 percent of cases resulted in manslaughter or homicide charges against the driver. Nearly as many also levied fines for failure to yield the right-of-way to the impacted party. Other common charges associated with deadly hit-and-runs included careless driving, reckless or negligent behavior, and failure to obey traffic signs.
Deadliest States for Fatal Hit-and-Runs
Fatal car crashes can happen anywhere, at any time. But when it comes to deadly hit-and-runs, some states may be more represented than others.
While New Mexico ranked as the seventh deadliest state for motor vehicle accidents in 2016, it had the most fatal hit-and-run accidents. In fact, there were 2.4 fatalities for every 100,000 residents in 2016, and more than half of all hit-and-runs occurred on national highways.
Nevada (1.6 deaths), Florida (1.3), Tennessee (1.2), Texas (1.2), and California (1.2) also ranked among the deadliest states for hit-and-run fatalities. Unlike New Mexico and Florida, however, a majority of the fatalities in Nevada, Tennessee, and Texas occurred on roads other than national highways.
Deadliest Streets for Fatal Hit-and-Runs
Whether due to a high volume of traffic, typical weather conditions, or even the availability of lighting, some roadways are known for being more dangerous than others. With 2.7 million miles of road in the U.S., the number of accidents and fatal crashes contributes to how dangerous these roads are by most accounts.
The most dangerous roads aren’t always where fatal hit-and-runs are likely to occur, however. In New Mexico, U.S. Highway 550 – an interstate that runs across the northwestern part of the state – is likely the state’s deadliest major highway. In contrast, though, Coors Boulevard in Albuquerque accounted for the highest number of fatal hit-and-runs, with four deaths in 2016.
While I-45 in Texas is one of the deadliest roads in America, I-69 and U.S. Highway 59 in Houston also accounted for the highest number of hit-and-run fatalities. In Florida, several roads tied as the most dangerous interstates and highways statewide for the number of deaths attributed to hit-and-run accidents. Travelers in Jacksonville were among those most in danger of experiencing a fatal hit-and-run.
Causes of Fatal Hit-and-Runs
Fatal motor accidents often occur for reasons other than drunk driving or severe weather conditions. In fact, more than half of all fatal accidents occur at intersections. Even roundabouts – designed to help reduce fatalities – still increase the number of car accidents as drivers move through them. Distracted driving also contributes to both fatal accidents and car accidents in general, prompting new laws to help combat drivers taking their eyes off the road to engage with their electronic devices.
Fatal hit-and-runs are no different. What causes them can be vastly different, and certain parts of the country may be more likely to encounter different factors than others. In Mississippi, fatal hit-and-runs were more likely to include police pursuit following the crash.
In Washington, D.C. – notorious for having some of the worst traffic in America – aggressive driving and road rage were more common in fatal hit-and-runs. In some cases, fatal hit-and-run crashes more commonly occurred as a result of environmental factors. In Connecticut, obscured pavement markings, like newly paved roads missing road stripes, were more commonly associated with hit-and-run deaths.
The Help You Need
In 2016, there was more than one hit-and-run crash every minute on U.S. roads. Of these accidents, more than 2,000 collisions involved at least one fatality. More than 2 in 3 of these deaths involved pedestrians and bicyclists, and as our research found, various roadway conditions contributed to the accidents that resulted in a loss of life.
If you’ve been involved in a hit-and-run accident, you may wonder where to turn to or what to do next. At Auto Insurance Center, our mission is to take the guesswork out of getting the coverage you need in the event of an emergency. Find the policy you need, get advice on what to do next, and connect with a lawyer in your area today.
We analyzed 2012 to 2016 FARS data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. We calculated the number of fatalities and fatal crashes that were classified as hit-and-run accidents. We analyzed these variables against the year and month, and calculated fatalities by state per 100,000 residents.