Florida Highway Patrol is cracking down on hit-and-runs by trying to reduce the number of fatal hit-and-run accidents in Florida and holding press conferences throughout the state.
Sgt. Tracy Hisler-Pace of FHP said hit-and-run accidents are more relevant than ever because of the increase in the number of incidents in 2012 compared to 2011.
Last year, Florida law enforcement agencies worked nearly 70,000 hit-and-run traffic crashes. Nearly 17,000 people were injured and 168 were killed in hit-and-runs, Hisler-Pace said, 100 of whom were pedestrians.
In 2011, 162 people were killed in hit-and-run accidents.
FHP hopes the campaign will help reduce the number of crashes by educating drivers about their responsibilities if they’re involved in a crash and the consequences they will face if they leave the scene of a crash.
Jeff Siegmeister, a Florida state attorney, said the repercussions of leaving the scene of an accident are very real.
Hisler-Pace said leaving the scene of a crash involving a death or injury is a first-degree felony and carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison, a fine of up to ten thousand dollars or both.
Some hit-and-run cases remain unsolved because of a lack of information about who is responsible. FHP is currently investigating three cases in Alachua, Suwanee and Dixie Counties.
FHP relies on assistance of the public for most of its leads. Even with help from the public, Siegmeister said, some cases are still unsolved.
Hisler-Pace said witnesses of hit-and-run crashes should call law enforcement immediately, give a detailed description of the vehicle and describe the driver if possible.
She added that drivers should remain calm and pull to the side of the road if they are ever in an accident.
Michelle Plitnikas wrote this story online.