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AASHTO Journal

AAA Study: Hit and Run Crashes on the Rise

​What do New Mexico, Louisiana and Florida have in common? Those three states have the highest rate of fatal hit-and-run crashes in the country, according to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. And the number of hit-and-run crashes – including ones involving highway workers – is on the rise.

Per that AAA Foundation study, more than one hit-and-run crash occurs every minute on U.S. roads. Such crashes resulted in 2,049 deaths in 2016, which is the highest number on record and a 60 percent increase since 2009.

traffic7-dcbeltway.jpgAAA researchers examined 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, the three states with the highest rates of fatal hit-and-crashes are New Mexico, Louisiana and Florida, with the three states with the lowest rates New Hampshire, Maine and Minnesota.

The AAA Foundation report also found that most victims of fatal hit-and-run crashes are pedestrians or bicyclists. Also, over the past decade, the group found that 20 percent of all pedestrian deaths were caused by hit-and-run crashes, compared to just one percent of all driver fatalities during the same 10-year period.

Yet highway workers are also victims of such crashes as well. For example, two South Carolina Department of Transportation workers were killed in a March hit-and-run crash last year, while a Virginia Department of Transportation worker suffered serious injuries in a hit-and-run incident last September.

Jake Nelson, AAA's director of traffic safety advocacy and research, explained to the AASHTO Journal that since this study is based on an analysis of fatality analysis reporting system or "FARS" data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and so no "direct correlations" can be made to a specific cause for the spike in hit-and-run crash deaths.

Yet he stressed that "any highway safety practitioner" can see that the rise of distracted driving by motorists as well as "distracted behaviors" on the part of pedestrians and bicyclists are "logical contributing factors" to the spike in those types of crashes.

"Distracted behavior does play a role, but also remember that over the last decade, public health officials have pushed for more walking and biking," Nelson said. "And while there are enormous benefits to those activities, what has not always happened is the installation of 'infrastructure countermeasures' to protect pedestrians and bicyclists from motor vehicles."

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