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Tragedy Report: Escalating Hit-and-Run Car Accidents in California

The alarming statistics underscore a wave of tragedies that have struck the Golden State: California hit-and-run car accidents are staggering in number and cruelty.

A Hit-and-Run Accident is Senseless, Irresponsible and Cruel

In 2002, an unlicensed, undocumented immigrant ran a car into six kids walking to school in Oakland. The collision killed 5-year-old Ana Cerna and injured five other children. Instead of stopping to render aid, the driver hit the accelerator. When Oakland police finally caught the hit-and-run driver, he was more worried about what would happen to him than the children he mowed down.

In 2003, Amy Malzbender, just 6 years old, was riding her bike to school when she was hit and killed by a Palo Alto High School teen who sped away. The hit-and-run behavior was a senseless and totally irresponsible act.

In 2008, a Sacramento teen struck and killed Aman Kumar Khanna, a father of three. The teen who was driving under the influence of alcohol fled the scene. Khanna was a hardworking family man who worked two jobs to provide for his wife, children, and mother.

In 2009, Adrianna Bachan, an 18-year-old USC freshman, was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver who sped through a red light at a crosswalk. Her companion, 19-year-old Marcus Garfinkle was also struck and severely injured, yet the car paused only long enough so a passenger could pull Garfinkle off the hood. Hit-and-run car accident lawyers and others were stunned by this cruel act.

California Hit-and-Run Car Accidents -- More than Double the National Average

In California, the number of hit-and-run car accidents has risen sharply. After years of decline, more drivers are fleeing the scenes of deadly crashes here than in any other state in the nation. In 2003, almost 300 people died annually in hit-and-run car accidents in California. Hit-and-run car accidents accounted for 7.8 percent of California fatal car crashes in 2001, the latest year for which figures are available from the U.S. Transportation Department. This is more than double the national average of 3.8 percent, and a percentage point higher than the hit-and-run car accident rate in Arizona.

Exploring the Causes of Hit-and-Run Car Accidents

So why are so many Californians engaging in such reckless, callous and irresponsible behavior? Traffic safety experts and police list a number of possible causes for hit-and-run car accidents. Perhaps the most controversial is the proliferation of unlicensed and uninsured drivers in the state. These motorists face not only arrest and/or a hefty citation, but they also risk losing their jobs, driving privileges and, in some instances, deportation. So instead of stopping to render aid, they panic and run.

Other drivers who run do so because they can't face the strict penalties for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. They realize that being caught with drugs, weapons or other contraband is a guaranteed jail sentence, so they flee, figuring they might not get caught.

Some accident analysts and police say California's car culture and roads are to blame. It's our love affair with high performance cars and trying to outrun a red light at the intersection that's partially the reason why many drivers opt to run after a crash. Others blame California's many wide, high-speed thoroughfares that lead to more serious collisions and cause more drivers to run.

California Hit-and-Run Car Accident Attorneys Warn of Severe Penalties

Every California hit-and-run car accident attorney will advise you that leaving an accident scene is a serious violation of California law. Drivers must stop, stay at the scene and exchange identification, car insurance information and attempt to get help for those injured, regardless of whether the car accident was your fault. California Vehicle Code section 20001 (a) states: "The driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to a person, other than himself or herself, or in the death of a person shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident."

Since hit-and-run violations in California are considered a felony, penalties can be extremely harsh. Individuals convicted of a hit and run can be sentenced to a state prison or county jail for up to one year and fined up to $10,000 or both. If the hit-and-run car accident causes a death or permanent, serious injury, those convicted face up to four years in a state prison, up to a year in a county jail, up to $10,000 in fines, or imprisonment and a fine. Those convicted of a hit-and-run AND vehicular manslaughter for causing a car accident that results in a death, the vehicular manslaughter punishment is extended for five more years.

We extend out sincerest condolences to the families who have lost a loved one in a hit-and-run tragedy.

Call 949-203-3814 for award-winning Orange County & Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyers in your area.

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