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Hit and run cases spike in Central Florida

Posted on Thursday, February 22, 2018 at 6:00 am

By Rachel Christian
Staff Writer
In 2017, Florida law enforcement officers investigated over 98,000 hit and run crashes.
Last year in Central Florida, 24 of those cases resulted in fatalities.
Representatives from the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) held a press conference in Orlando last week to shed light on what they say is an increasingly common problem.
“I would say we’ve definitely seen an increase over the last eight years in the number of hit and runs,” said FHP Sgt. Kim Montes.
There were 1,222 hit and run crashes in Osceola County in 2017.
Most motorists who flee an accident often do so because they are afraid of facing law enforcement, Montes said. Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash, lack of a valid driver’s license or pre-existing arrest warrens are the most common reasons why people drive off after a crash.
But no matter the reason, Montes said fleeing the scene of an accident always will make a potentially bad situation even worse.
“No matter what you’re afraid of getting in trouble for, it will only be worse if you run,” she said.
For example, if a pedestrian runs in front of a car driven by a drunk driver, the driver will likely only face a DUI misdemeanor. But if the driver flees the scene and is later caught, the motorist will be charged with a first-degree felony and face up to 30 years in jail.
The number of hit and run crashes may be on the rise, but Montes said technology is helping catch more culprits then ever before.
Surveillance footage and improved forensic evidence are aiding law enforcement, but eyewitness accounts are still a vital part of solving cases, Montes said.
Whether someone is an observer or the victim of a hit and run, key details at the time of an accident can help law enforcement track down suspects more quickly. Things like license plate numbers and physical descriptions of the driver can be essential in solving a crime.
Even small details can make or break a case, Montes said.
“People may think, ‘Well I only saw the first two numbers of the license plate,’ but that can help,” she said.
Above all, Montes said staying at the scene of an accident is the moral and ethical thing to do. It also saves lives.
“No matter how scared you might be, you’re dealing with another human being,” Montes said. “Especially if there are injuries, you have to stick around. It’s the right thing to do.”