New law could improve resolution of California hit-and-run accidents

A new “yellow alert” system, which will broadcast information about vehicles that flee the scene of crashes, may deter hit-and-runs and yield more arrests.

Hit-and-run accidents occur at an alarming rate in Palm Springs and other parts of California. According to Southern California Public Radio, in Los Angeles alone, drivers left the scene in about 20,000 accidents that occurred in 2014, leaving 144 people injured and 27 people dead. Sadly, besides being common, these accidents frequently go unresolved. However, a bill that Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed into law could help address this issue.

A new alert system

Under this legislation, law enforcement authorities will be able to use the state's Amber Alert system to broadcast information about hit-and-run accidents starting in January 2016. According to The Los Angeles Times, electronic highway signs near reported hit-and-run accidents will display identifying information about the fleeing vehicle. This includes the make, model and color of the car, along with full or partial license plate numbers.

Authorities hope this law will discourage drivers from fleeing the scene of car accidents. The decision to leave an accident can have huge consequences, as hit-and-run drivers are often the only people available to secure medical attention for others involved in the crash. By deterring drivers from fleeing, this law could greatly help reduce car accident fatalities. It may also help boost the resolution of hit-and-run cases.

Expected safety gains

The majority of hit-and-run cases in California currently go unresolved. As an example, last year in Glendale, just 29 drivers were arrested for leaving the scene of car accidents, even though 732 hit-and-run accidents were reported. However, there is evidence that the new alert system could greatly increase apprehensions in these cases. Southern California Public Radio reports the following facts:

  • Throughout California, about four out of five hit-and-run cases are never resolved.
  • In Colorado, Denver had a comparable rate of unresolved cases, which led the city to implement a similar alert system.
  • The year after the system was put in place, the arrest rate for Denver hit-and-run accidents jumped to 76 percent.

The system in California, which is modeled after the one in Denver, could offer similar gains and enable more hit-and-run accident victims to hold the responsible drivers accountable.

Unresolved cases

Unfortunately, the use of the yellow alert system won't guarantee the apprehension of the responsible driver in every hit-and-run case. Given the high rate of these motor vehicle accidents that occur each year in California, it is important for local drivers to understand their rights after experiencing such an accident.

If a hit-and-run driver is never caught, victims may be able to make claims against their own insurance policies. Consequently, it is critical for victims to formally document a hit-and-run accident through police reports and other measures. Anyone who has been harmed in a hit-and-run crash may benefit from consulting with an attorney for further information.