Hit-and-run crashes are on the rise in Dayton, and already more people have been injured in auto collisions this year than in all of 2018.
The city has history of high hit-and-run crashes. Between 2014 and 2018, the number of hit/skips increased 66 percent, greatly outpacing Montgomery County and the state of Ohio, according to a Dayton Daily News analysis of Ohio State Highway Patrol data.
Hit/skip crashes can stick people with large medical bills or property losses, but also they impact local motorists’ insurance rates.
“If you live in a high-risk area, your rates could be higher,” said Kara Hitchens, a spokeswoman for AAA Miami Valley. “So for hit-and-run crashes to become commonplace, everyone ‘pays.’”
Hit-and-run collisions occur when at least one person involved in a crash flees the scene before providing their information, aid or properly reporting the incident, according to the AAA Foundation.
Through Oct. 17, there have been 1,114 hit/skip crashes in Dayton, which puts the city on pace to exceed last year’s total of 1,373 crashes, according to data from the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Hit-and-run crashes have increased in Dayton in each of the last four years, and there were 547 more hit/skip crashes last year than in 2014 (825 in total that year).
During the same four-year time frame, hit/skip crashes increased 52 percent in Montgomery County and 24 percent in the state of Ohio.
In Ohio, leaving the scene of a car crash or failing to stop after a collision is usually a first-degree misdemeanor, with potential penalties of up to six months in jail, fines and a minimum 6-month license suspension, according to Riddell Law, a Columbus law firm.
Drivers who hit parked cars, even if they believe there was no damage, are required under Ohio law to exchange information or leave a note on the vehicle, if unattended, the firm said.
Many drivers leave the scene of a crash because they fear they will face other criminal charges for offenses.
“The main reasons why people flee is no driver’s license, suspended license and no insurance, followed by (operating a vehicle while intoxicated) and warrants,” said Dayton police Lt. James Mullins, with the Central Patrol Operations District.
Many people flee after crashes that cause injuries.
On Aug 8, two people riding a motorcycle were seriously injured in a crash at the intersection of West Hillcrest Avenue and Philadelphia Drive.
A car traveling south on Philadelphia Drive went around a vehicle stopped at a red light.
After running the red light, the car was struck by a 2008 Suzuki motorcycle carrying a man and a woman, according to police and a crash report.
The vehicle, described as a black four-door car, sustained front-end damage, but fled the scene.
About a month later at the same intersection, a car traveling south on Philadelphia Drive failed to stop at a red light and tried to perform a U-turn at Hillcrest Avenue, according to a crash report.
The car was hit by a 2004 Pontiac Bonneville traveling about 35 mph east on Hillcrest Avenue.
The first car hit a utility box, and then took off and failed to stop and exchange information.
The driver of the Pontiac, a 44-year-old woman, was injured and taken to Grandview Hospital.
The crash report says police could not take further action because they do not have the suspect’s vehicle plate number or a good idea of who was driving.
The main reason finding hit/skip drivers is difficult is because of people’s lack of cooperation to provide information about who was driving at the time of the crash, Lt. Mullins said.
Sometimes, cars are reported stolen after a crash. Other times, the owners say they let an acquaintance they only know by a first name or nickname borrow the vehicles and cannot say who might have been driving, Mullins said.
National research suggests that about half of hit-and-run drivers are eventually identified, but the rates of identification vary by state, with some states having rates as low as 10 percent, according to the AAA Foundation.
Leaving the scene of a crash is a crime and there are financial implications for people who have been hit, including repair costs and potential medical expenses, said Hitchens, with AAA Miami Valley.
There have been 29 fatal crashes involving pedestrians in Dayton since 2014, and 10 of those were hit/skip collisions, according to the state data.
Overall, 18 people have been killed in hit-and-run crashes in Dayton since 2014, including five people in each of the last three years.
There have been no fatalities so far this year, but there have been 13 crashes in which serious injuries suspected.
AAA research found that over a 10-year period about 20 percent all pedestrian motor vehicle deaths were caused by hit-and-run crashes, compared to just 1 percent of all driver fatalities.
2019 has seen an increase in hit/skip injuries in the city.
As of Oct. 17, there have been 297 people injured in hit and run collisions in the city this year, which is already 13 more than all of 2018, state data show.
Motorists should always be aware of their surroundings if involved in a crash and take note of the vehicles involved so they can report it, Hitchens said.
Evidence useful in hit/skip investigations include statements from witnesses, video footage and physical evidence left at the scene of the crime like fingerprints, personal belongings and DNA samples, officials said.
“If you are able, take notes of the make, model and color of their vehicle – and license plate number if you can,” Hitchens said.
For a motorists to protect themselves, they should consider speaking with an insurance agent to explore additional coverage, she said.
Auto insurance collision coverage protects against physical damage to a policyholder’s vehicle, often including in hit/skip incidents, said Robert Denhard, spokesman with the Ohio Department of Insurance.
Policyholders should research consider purchasing uninsured motorists property damage coverage, he said.
“The conditions of an auto insurance policy can vary by insurance company so it’s imperative that consumers understand their coverage, and work with an agent to secure adequate financial protection for their needs,” he said.
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