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Florida launches campaign to reduce hit-and-run crashes

File photo of Florida Highway Patrol cruiser
File photo of Florida Highway Patrol cruiser (WJXT 2020)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Even as the total number of hit-and-run crashes in Florida fell last year, the number of deaths resulting from those crashes rose by over 18 percent, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

As part of an effort to reduce the number of hit-and-run crashes and help close open cases, the state agency has launched a “Stay at the Scene” campaign for February, which is Hit-and-Run Awareness Month. The goal of the campaign is to educate drivers on what to do if they’re involved in a crash, the penalties for not staying at the scene and how to report tips to police.

In Florida, a driver is required to stop immediately at the scene of a crash resulting in property damage, injury or death. It’s a felony to leave the scene of a crash involving injury or death and, if convicted of doing so, drivers could be sentenced to prison and lose their license for three years.

“Leaving the scene of a traffic crash is a serious offense,” said Col. Gene Spaulding, director of the Florida Highway Patrol. “It’s your duty as a driver involved in a crash to remain at the scene and provide assistance to other motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians or other parties who have been injured or received property damage. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the law.”

According to figures provided by the state, most hit-and-run crashes happen either at night or during low-light conditions. An analysis of crash data from 2015 to 2020 found that 85 percent of hit-and-runs happened at dusk, dawn or at night.

These crashes are particularly dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians, who made up more than half of the hit-and-run deaths in 2020. That’s why the state is urging pedestrians and cyclists to make themselves as visible as they can by having lights or reflectors.

Here’s what to do if you’re involved in a crash:

  • Check to make sure you are okay and remain calm;
  • If possible, move to the side of the road. Remove your keys if you get out of your vehicle and stand in a safe place;
  • Check on anyone else involved. Call 911 if anyone might be injured or a vehicle is inoperable;
  • If there are no injuries or major property damage, gather information. Get the name, driver license, insurance, and tag information from the other driver(s). Take photos of the vehicles and information if you can’t write it down and then file a report online;
  • Most importantly, always stay at the scene. Leaving the scene of a crash will only make matters worse. Staying at the scene will not only spare a driver significant legal penalties, but may save a life.