METAIRIE, LA (WVUE) - Louisiana ranks second in the nation with the highest rate of fatal hit-and-run crashes per capita, according to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
The national study found that one hit-and-run crash occurs every minute on U.S. roads, and resulted in 2,049 deaths in 2016 - the highest number on record and a 60 percent increase since 2009.
With the number of hit-and-run crashes on the rise, AAA is calling for drivers to be alert on the road in order to avoid a deadly crash and always remain on the scene if a crash occurs, according to the report.
AAA researchers studied common characteristics of hit-and-run crashes and found that:
- An average of 682,000 hit-and-run crashes occurred each year since 2006.
- Nearly 65 percent of people killed in hit-and-run crashes were pedestrians or bicyclists.
- Hit-and-run deaths in the U.S. have increased an average of 7.2 percent each year since 2009.
- Per capita, New Mexico, Louisiana and Florida have the highest rate of fatal hit-and-run crashes while New Hampshire, Maine and Minnesota have the lowest rates.
According to the report, most victims of fatal hit-and-run crashes are pedestrians or bicyclists.
The report said over the past 10 years, nearly 20 percent of all pedestrian deaths were caused by hit-and-run crashes, meanwhile just one percent of all driver fatalities in that same time period.
To decrease the chances of being involved in a crash with a pedestrian or bicyclist, drivers should:
- Be aware: Pedestrians may act unpredictably and can walk into the path of travel at any point.
- Be cautious: Look out for small children and be alert to areas where there are likely to be more pedestrians. These include school zones, playgrounds, bus stops and intersections.
- Be patient: When trying to pass a pedestrian or cyclist, give plenty of space and keep them in your line of sight.
- Be vigilant: Drivers should always yield to pedestrians, even if they walk into the road from an area other than a crosswalk.
Currently, every state has laws that make it illegal for a driver involved in a crash to flee the scene.
State penalties vary depending on the type of crash (i.e. property damage, injury, serious injury or a fatality).
If found guilty, drivers can face large fines, lose their license or spend time in prison. AAA encourages drivers to educate themselves about specific hit-and-run laws in their state and remain alert on the road to prevent crashes from occurring.
AAA said if a driver is involved in a crash, they should never leave the scene and follow the steps below:
- Assist the injured- Check for injured people and call 911.
- Be visible- Make sure that the scene is visible to approaching drivers. If possible, move vehicles out of the path of traffic, and use hazard flashers, flares, and reflective triangles. Find a safe place to remain until emergency services arrive, if needed.
- Communicate- Call the police and file a report. If the police do not come to the scene, you can file a report by visiting a local police department or your automobile insurance agency.