FLORIDA - According to several news outlets, including mypanhandle.com, the number of annual hit-and-run pedestrian fatalities rose by more than 18% in the State of Florida in 2020. The issue has become so widespread that state officials along with law enforcement agencies are scrambling to identify solutions to the epidemic of hit-and-run accidents. As part of the rapid response to the hit-and-run problem in the state, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles launched the 'Stay at the Scene' campaign this month to raise awareness about the issue of hit and run accidents and remind the public of the consequences and punishments for fleeing accidents.  

According to Florida law, a driver who is involved in any type of accident, regardless of how small the accident, must stop at the scene of the accident. In other words, if you are driving a motor vehicle and you are in an accident in a parking lot, roadway, or parking garage, you are breaking the law if you leave the scene of an accident no matter how insignificant the property damage of the others involved are not harmed.

Lieutenant Jason King, Public Affairs Officer for Troop A, stated that there were around 91,000 hit-and-run accidents in Florida. This means 91,000 drivers broke the law by leaving the scene of an accident. Of those, more than 250 of these hit-and-run accidents resulted in death. 137 of those fatal hit-and-run accidents involved pedestrians, which Lieutenant King describes as "very scary."

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reminds drivers that they will be facing harsh penalties if they don't stop after an accident. In Florida, leaving the scene of an accident, even if it is a minor accident with minor damage, you will face 60 days in jail plus a $500 fine, according to Lieutenant King. If the accident was fatal, the penalties are a $10,000 fine plus up to 30 years in a Florida state prison.

Florida Highway Patrol troopers remind drivers to be careful when pulling over to the side of the road after they have been in an accident. Also, never just exit your vehicle. Many fatal accidents happen in "secondary accidents." A secondary accident is an accident "caused by an accident." For example, two cars are in an accident on a highway. A third vehicle, not involved in the first accident, does not stop in time and crashes into the first accident vehicles. Many deadly accidents occur when people getting out of their vehicle and are struck by another motor vehicle. 

One hit-and-run accident is too many, but the Florida Highway Patrol has a few unresolved cases. For example, there are nine unsolved hit-and-run accidents in Pensacola, Florida, and two more in Panama City, Florida. Sometimes drivers are not sure what they hit. Therefore, it is very important to turn around if you hit something and go back to the area to see if you hit a jogger, runner, pedestrian, bicyclist, or something else. 

Lieutenant King reminds drivers to stay aware and alert to their surroundings while driving and if they hit something, make sure to go back in case you hit a pedestrian. This helps families find closure if the accident was fatal. 

In many cases for hit-and-run accidents, the driver may flee due to fear of being arrested. For example, a driver involved in an accident might flee the accident because they have an outstanding warrant, are intoxicated, are an undocumented immigrant, and are afraid of getting in trouble. In many cases, no criminal charges are filed when an accident happens, the accident was not the driver's fault, and the driver stayed at the accident scene and called 911. 

If you fled the scene of the accident, be aware that there are many home security cameras, business surveillance cameras, traffic cameras, unknown eyewitnesses, and other ways that hit-and-run drivers are later identified and caught. A significant number of hit-and-run accidents are solved by incoming tips from witnesses, including the suspect's friends and family members. If you fled the scene of an accident, you could receive a visit from law enforcement officers at any moment. Once that has happened, your options to resolve the issue with the least amount of punishment are diminished.  

If you have been involved in an accident and you left the scene of the accident, contact our firm to discuss your case. You may have a way for our attorneys to help you through the legal problem without you getting charged with a crime depending on the situation. There may be a way to tell your side of the story anonymously to law enforcement through one of our lawyers and avoid severe punishment. This depends on the specific details in your situation.  

There are many defenses that can be used to fight your criminal charges. Taking this action may also help you to avoid serious criminal charges such as DUI manslaughter. Again, it is very important that you speak to one of our Florida hit-and-run defense lawyers today!