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The Villages

Rising number of hit-and-run fatalities a troubling trend in Florida

In 2020, hit-and-run crash fatalities increased by over 18 percent even as total hit-and-run crashes in Florida decreased by 13 percent compared to 2019. In an effort to reduce the number of hit-and-run crashes and fatalities and to help solve open cases, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is leading the Stay at the Scene campaign this February, during Hit-and-Run Awareness Month.

In partnership with the Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Sheriffs Association, Florida Association of Crime Stoppers, and AAA – The Auto Club Group, the Stay at the Scene campaign aims to educate drivers on their responsibilities if involved in a crash, the serious consequences they face if they do not Stay at the Scene, and how motorists can easily and anonymously report tips on hit-and-run crashes to law enforcement.

“When you flee the scene of a crash, you’re not only breaking the law, you could be leaving someone who needs immediate medical attention,” said FLHSMV Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes. “While being involved in a crash can be scary, choosing to flee from the scene can have life-altering consequences. Remember: If you are involved in a crash, Stay at the Scene.”

The vast majority of hit-and-run fatalities occur at night or during low-light hours. According to an FLHSMV analysis, 85 percent of all hit-and-run fatalities from 2015 to 2020 occurred during dawn, dusk or nighttime conditions. Motorists are urged to drive safely and look twice for vulnerable road users, especially when there is low visibility. Vulnerable road users are particularly at risk. In fact, of the 254 hit-and-run fatalities in 2020, 137 were pedestrians and 25 were bicyclists. To further prevent these types of crashes from occurring, it is critical for pedestrians or bicyclists to be as visible as possible with proper lights and reflectors.

“Leaving the scene of a traffic crash is a serious offense,” said Florida Highway Patrol Director Col. Gene S. Spaulding. “It’s your duty as a driver involved in a crash to remain at the scene and provide assistance to other motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians or other parties who have been injured or received property damage. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the law.”

Under Florida law, a driver must stop immediately at the scene of a crash on public or private property that results in property damage, injury or death. Leaving the scene of a crash is a felony and a driver, when convicted, will have their license revoked for at least three years and can be sentenced to a mandatory minimum of four years in prison.

Important steps to follow if you are involved in a crash:

  • Make sure you are OK and remain calm.
  • If possible, move to the side of the road. Remove your keys if you get out of your vehicle and stand out of the roadway in a safe area.
  • Check on others involved. Call 911 if anyone might be injured or a vehicle is inoperable.
  • If there are no injuries or major property damage, gather information. Get the name, driver’s license, insurance and tag information from the other driver(s). Take photos of the vehicles and information if you can’t write it down and then file a report online.
  • Most importantly, stay calm and always stay at the scene. Leaving the scene of a crash will only make matters worse. Staying at the scene will not only spare a driver significant legal penalties, but may save a life.

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