Nearly one out of two car accidents in Los Angeles involves a hit-and-run. There are 4,000 injury or death-related collisions involving people fleeing the scene in L.A. each year. One-hundred of those cases involved pedestrian deaths.
Those facts we know from Simone Wilson's excellent cover story in today's LA Weekly: “L.A.'s Bloody Hit-and-Run Epidemic.”
In it we also learn how to hit-and-run with impunity, something that's done often:
-Do it in a city, like L.A., where traffic cops are scarce: In this city of nearly 4 million, the understaffed LAPD has only about 12 traffic investigators in each of its four areas patrolled by the department's Traffic Division — Central, South, West and Valley.
If you happen to hit someone or something and a patrol cop responds and undertakes the initial investigation, it's possible the officer won't be trained to catch clues — pieces of your car, tire marks, etc. — that could lead to your whereabouts.
-Make sure nobody dies: The LAPD puts a higher priority on death investigations involving hit-and-run drivers. Death, then, gets the victim an automatic referral to Traffic Division detectives. Even then, says West Traffic Detective Brent Johnson, “There are times when there's nobody from Traffic available” to respond quickly. “It just depends on if units are tied up or not.”
More on the next page:
-Be drunk: Experts believe that many hit-and-run drivers are under-the-influence and want to avoid that $10,000 cost (and more, for hitting someone or something) that comes with a DUI conviction. Flee and sober up: It's hard to prove you'd been drinking long after the fact.
-Be undocumented: No, being undocumented doesn't help you escape prosecution. But it may give you a potent reason not to stop — which seems to be all it takes in this city. Many hit-and-runs are caused by illegal immigrants who flee because they're afraid of being deported and having their vehicles taken because they're driving without licenses. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck acknowledged that hit-and-runs could be reduced significantly if the undocumented could be tracked through drivers licenses and had to go through the minimum drivers' ed required to become licensed.
Of course, we're not actually telling you to hit, then run. We're making a point. This is out of control.
[Added]: -Don't turn yourself in. We forgot to add here that all the above effort would be worthless if you felt a modicum of guilt and went to police later which, surprisingly, some of you actually do.