Illinois Authorities Concerned About High Hit and Run Rate
Unfortunately, hit-and-run crashes are not uncommon. Around the country, the number of hit-and-run crashes is on the rise, leading to new legislation in several states. Unfortunately, most hit-and-run crashes involve pedestrians and bicyclists, who are particularly vulnerable to injury and death when struck by a moving vehicle.
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The Data is Staggering
The City of Chicago released data reporting that between 2005 and 2014, two out of every five pedestrian fatalities in Chicago were hit-and-run accidents. Though not the highest in the Nation, Chicago hit-and-run rates top many major metropolitan regions, including New York City. Law enforcement officials and safety advocates are not certain why so many motorists in Chicago leave the scene after striking pedestrians. Most agree though, that something must be done to reduce these drastic statistics.
Unfortunately, bikers are also at risk. Twenty two percent of deadly bike collisions were hit-and-run accidents, according to Illinois Department of Transportation crash data. Fifty three bike fatalities were reported by the Chicago Police Department in 2015. Fifteen of these were hit-and-run accidents.
The Dangers of Leaving the Scene
While any vehicle crash that involves injury or death is tragic, these situations become even more complicated when a driver leaves the scene. The longer it takes to get medical care to the victims, the lower their chance of being effectively treated. Ensuring that proper legal action is taken is also a more difficult process when a driver must be tracked down. A Chicago car accident attorney can provide feedback regarding the liability of hit-and-run drivers.
Some drivers inaccurately assume that leaving the scene of an accident will prevent them from being charged with a crime. Drivers who are under the influence, have outstanding warrants or suspended licenses or who are in the country illegally often flee with the hope that they won’t be found out. Most often, they are eventually tracked down. Speed cams and unseen witnesses are often helpful in this process.
The city of Chicago has publicized its zero traffic fatality goal and is participating in nationwide initiatives to reduce traffic injuries. Officials are looking at street design and traffic enforcement policies to determine how to best prevent hit-and-run accidents. Educating the public about the consequences of leaving the scene is also part of the local plan.
It’s likely that in the light of these statistics, Illinois lawmakers will consider even more aggressive hit-and-run laws in the future. Some states are beginning to pass laws that place more accountability on drivers. For example, drivers involved in any vehicle accident in Wisconsin are now not only required to stop, but also to investigate the situation.
Hit-and-Run Accidents and Illinois Law
Leaving the scene of an accident is against the law, and those who do it can face criminal charges and liability claims. Any driver involved in an accident causing injury or death is legally required to stop the vehicle and remain on the scene until authorities have released them. Leaving the scene of an accident where injury or death occurred is considered a felony in the state of Illinois. When only property is damaged, the driver may still be charged with a misdemeanor.
Those involved in hit-and-run crashes may consult a Chicago car accident attorney. Injuries are often significant and this translates to high medical bills and loss of work. If the driver is found, a suit can be filed. Even if the responsible driver is not found, however, there are still legal options. Injured parties may file a claim through their own auto insurance company if they have uninsured motorist coverage. This coverage may pay for medical treatment, lost wages, therapies, damage to property and, in some cases, pain and suffering.
A hit-and-run accident causing significant damage to property is considered a Class 4 Felony, which can lead to a fine of up to $25,000 along with a possible 3 year prison sentence. When a person is injured, this is a Class 2 Felony, with a sentence of up to 7 years in prison along with a fine up to $25,000. When an accident results in death, the crime then becomes a Class 1 Felony, with a 15 year prison sentence and a fine of up to $25,000.
Hit-and-Run cases often involve additional charges, for example, DUI charges or other criminal offenses. Because the complications of finding a driver and determining the cause of an accident, prosecuting or seeking compensation for a hit-and-run case can be a time-consuming process. While it is understandable to panic when an accident unexpectedly occurs, a violation of the law does have consequences and injured parties do have the right to seek out a Chicago car accident attorney to assist with recouping their losses.