There were 1,980 fatal hit-and-run crashes in the U.S. in 2016 that resulted in 2,049 lost lives, which was the highest number ever recorded, according to a new study from the AAA Foundation.
Both hit-and-run crashes and fatalities are increasing at alarming rates nationwide, according to the AAA Foundation report, "Hit-and-Run Crashes: Prevalence, Contributing Factors and Countermeasures."
Since 2009, the number of hit-and-run fatalities has been increasing at an average rate of 7.2% per year. A large proportion of the increase has been in fatal crashes involving people outside of vehicles, such as pedestrians, according to the report.
For example, in 2016, 1,398 fatal hit-and-run crashes involved nonvehicle occupants like pedestrians and bicyclists.
Another alarming increase can be seen in the total percentage of fatalities that involve the driver leaving the scene. In 5.5% of all traffic fatalities in 2016, the driver fled — that's a record high, according to the report. The fleeing figure rises to 20.5% when examining only 2016 crashes in which the victims are pedestrians. However, about 50% of all hit-and-run offenders in the U.S. are eventually identified.
The report also explores specific environmental factors that contribute to the likelihood of hit-and-run crashes.
Generally, the greater the visibility of a potential crash — due to more witnesses or better lighting, for example — the less likely a hit-and-run will occur. Conversely, areas with higher pedestrian traffic increase the likelihood. Fatal hit-and-run crashes are more common on roads with lower speed limits, possibly because pedestrians are likely to cross them, notes the report.
Other noteworthy findings include:
There were approximately 737,100 hit-and-run crashes in 2015 in the U.S., translating into one hit-and-run every 43 seconds.
The top three states for fatal hit-and-run crashes are New Mexico, Louisiana and Florida. States with the lowest rates are New Hampshire, Maine and Minnesota.
Drivers in U.S. hit-and-run crashes are more likely to be young males with a history of driving under the influence and license suspension.
To compile the report, AAA Foundation analyzed 2006-2016 fatal, injury, and non-injury crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) as well as NHTSA's National Automotive Sampling System General Estimates System (NASS GES).
Read the full report here.