Nationwide vs. Los Angeles
Hit and Run accidents in Los Angeles have been steadily rising over the last decade. In fact, a whopping 50 percent of all traffic accidents reported in Greater Los Angeles are categorized as “hit and run”. Compared to the rest of the nation’s 11 percent, it is safe to say it is reaching epidemic proportions. 
In Los Angeles, a hit and run occurs every 18 minutes.
Statistically, dozens of people are killed each year in Los Angeles County by hit and run drivers. Hundreds more are injured. Only about a fifth of these serious felony hit and run cases are solved, according to police statistics. What does this mean? Well, the odds are in favor of the hit and run driver when they flee.
This is why LA has implemented an alert and rewards system: $50,000 reward for information in a fatal hit-and-run, $25,000 reward for a serious injury hit-and-run, $5,000 for a lesser injury hit-and-run, and $1,000 for just property damage. 
Types of Hit and Run Accidents
There are essentially 2 main types of hit and run accidents:
- Misdemeanor Hit and Run (Vehicle Code Section 20002). A misdemeanor hit and run is a failure to stop and properly identify yourself after an accident that only results in property damage
- Felony Hit and Run (Vehicle Code Section 20001). A Hit and run can also be charged as a felony under California Vehicle Code section 20001 if there has been a failure to exchange information, and if another person has been injured
Why Are There so Many?
There are many reasons drivers flee the scene of an accident. First, it is estimated that 2 out of 5 hit and run accidents are from unlicensed drivers. Interestingly, “Assembly Bill 60” was passed to allow illegal immigrants to become legal, licensed drivers in California. Since the bill was passed, 850,000 illegal immigrants became legal drivers and this may be the reason there is a 7% decrease in hit and runs in 2016. 
Another reason people may flee the scene of an accident is that they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Rather than get charged with the crime of DUI, the driver panics and leaves the scene in order to not get caught. DUI’s are taken very seriously in California, and the penalties and fines can be significant.
A third reason people will drive away is they are afraid of paying for the costs. The price of their insurance premium, or losing their license may be running through their head. In the case of serious injury to another person, the penalty could involve prison time. Given the opportunity to run away and not get caught seems like the solution.
Despite all of the effort and progress made to minimize hit and run accidents in The Greater Los Angeles Area, it will likely continue to be a major problem for years to come, or at least until Self-Driving cars dominate the roadways. A motor vehicle can be viewed as a dangerous weapon when someone who cannot drive is behind the wheel, and there are plenty of terrible drivers in Southern California. That is why it will probably be some time before Los Angeles loses it’s reputation as the Hit-and-Run Capital of the Nation.
Seppi Esfandi is a Specialist in Criminal Law who has over 16 years of practice defending a variety of criminal cases.