ABC News Philadelphia reported that a child was killed in a hit-and-run crash earlier last week in Southwest Philadelphia. According to police, an SUV struck the little boy twice and then fled the scene. In a separate incident, NBC News Philadelphia reported that on Monday, the night a mother carrying her 2-year-old son in a car seat was crossing the street in Kensington when struck by a hit and run driver. Both mother and her 2-year-old son, who sustained critical injuries, were hospitalized and the boy died from his injuries.
The warmer weather brings out more pedestrians, increasing the chances of pedestrian-vehicle accidents and fatalities. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that in 2012, 4,743 pedestrians died in traffic crashes, accounting for 14% of all traffic fatalities in motor vehicle crashes. That same year, estimated 76,000 pedestrians were injured in traffic crashes. A pedestrian was killed approximately every 2 hours and injured every 7 minutes in traffic crashes in the United States. The NHTSA reported that 32% of the pedestrian fatalities occurred in the evening, between 8 pm and midnight.
USA Today published an article stating that fatal hit-and-run crashes are on the rise. Their investigation found a nearly 14% increase over a three year period, and they also found that one in five of all pedestrian fatalities are hit-and-runs.
Why are so many drivers fleeing the scene? Alcohol and drugs may play a large factor in hit-and-run accidents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that alcohol impairment, either for the driver or the pedestrian, was reported in 47% of the traffic crashes that resulted in pedestrian death. Drivers may be fleeing to avoid getting caught drinking and driving. Distracted driving may also play a part in hit-and-run crashes. Distracted driving accidents are growing at an alarming rate and may also be contributing to pedestrian injuries and fatalities as more and more drivers are distracted by texting and cell phone use.
Children and the elderly are at risk for pedestrian accidents, according to the CDC. In 2012, pedestrians age 65 and older accounted for 20% of pedestrian deaths and more than one in five children between the ages of 5 and 15 who were killed in crashes were pedestrians.
Criminal penalties for leaving the scene of a hit and run vary by state and may depend on circumstances. In Pennsylvania, you have a responsibility to stop following an accident, no matter how minor. Failing to do so can bring about criminal charges with serious penalties. If the accident resulted in injuries or death, the penalties are far more severe.
Kevin’s Law, which came about as a result of the horrible hit-and-run death of 5-year-old Kevin Miller in Wilkes-Barre, was signed in Pennsylvania last year. It raised the mandatory minimum punishment for drivers who flee the scene of a fatal accident from one to three years and fixed a loophole in DUI hit-and-run cases. Before Kevin’s Law, the minimum penalty for leaving the scene of an accident involving a fatality was one year, less than a fatal accident involving drunk driving. Continuing to increase penalties for hit-and-run accidents will hopefully stop the increase in pedestrian fatalities and save the lives of these young victims.
Philadelphia injury lawyers at Fellerman & Ciarimboli offer these tips for pedestrian safety:
- When walking at night, increase your visibility by wearing reflective clothing or carrying a flashlight.
- Walk on the sidewalk whenever possible.
- Walk facing traffic. If there is no sidewalk, and you must walk on the side of the road, walk towards oncoming traffic, so you can see traffic as it approaches.
- Cross the street at intersections. Be sure to stop and look both ways before crossing. Don’t count on a vehicle to automatically stop for a red light or stop sign.
- Be aware of everything that is going on around you, don’t be distracted by cell phones or other mobile devices while walking.
- Do not wear headphones or use earplugs when walking, so you can hear traffic.
- Be sure to talk to your children about how to walk safely at all times.
If you have been injured in a hit-an-run accident or another vehicle accident, call Fellerman & Ciarimboli personal injury attorneys today for a free conversation. Call 215-575-9237 for our Philadelphia office or 570-714-HURT for our Wilkes-Barre office.
With more than 40 years of combined experience, the personal injury attorneys at Fellerman & Ciarimboli strive to provide the best service to clients in Philadelphia, Northeast Pennsylvania, and throughout the Keystone State.