TALLAHASSEE — February is Hit-and-Run Awareness Month in Florida, and the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) and its division of the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) are leading the state’s “Stay at the Scene” campaign to prevent these crashes, reduce fatalities and injuries, and bring justice to families impacted by these crimes.
FLHSMV’s data analysis shows a positive improvement from last year, but yearly hit-and-run totals in Florida underscore a disturbing trend.
In 2022, the total number of hit-and-run crashes across the state decreased by 5% compared to 2021. In that same comparison, fatalities from hit-and-runs were down by 13%, and serious bodily injuries from hit-and-runs were down 15%.
However, in Florida over the past five years, there were 515,957 hit-and-run crashes that resulted in 1,251 fatalities. That, on average, is 103,191 hit-and-run crashes resulting in 250 deaths per year in the state. Florida recorded 104,895 hit-and-run crashes and 266 fatalities last year.
Fatalities in hit-and-runs, due to low-light conditions, decreased in 2022 from the previous year. Total crashes and those at dawn, dusk, or nighttime saw a slight downtick. Despite that reduction, hit-and-run crashes still primarily occur at night or during dimly lit time periods, and account for 80% of all hit-and-run crashes. Sadly, 84% of hit-and-runs in low-light conditions involve a fatality.
Additionally, 144 of the hit-and-run fatalities in 2022 were pedestrians and 50 were bicyclists, totaling 73% of hit-and-run fatalities last year. While overall hit-and-run fatalities were down compared to 2021, the percentage of bicyclists and pedestrians who died in hit-and-run crashes rose by 3%.
“Florida has been experiencing far too many hit-and-run tragedies for far too long, and this needs to change,” FLHSMV Executive Director Dave Kerner said. “Drivers who flee the scene of a crash are law breakers and displaying disregard towards other people’s lives and property. Fleeing the scene of a crash will cause severe, lifelong penalties, and law enforcement – including our State Troopers – will track down those offenders to make sure they are held accountable under the law.”
• If the crash involves property damage, leaving the scene is classified as a second-degree misdemeanor, with penalties up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
• Leaving the scene of a crash with injuries is a second- or third-degree felony and a driver, when convicted, will have their driver license revoked for at least three years and can be sentenced up to five years in prison and incur a $5,000 fine.
• Drivers who leave the scene of a crash with a fatality face a first-degree felony with a mandatory minimum of four years in prison, and they could be sentenced up to 30 years and incur a $10,000 fine.
• Of Florida’s 104,895 hit-and-run crashes last year, 86,799 involved property damage only, such as a parked car with no one inside, mailbox, fence, or landscape/garden. If involved in a crash involving property damage, you must stay at the scene and attempt to locate or contact the property owner. If you cannot locate the property owner, the driver responsible for the crash should leave contact and insurance information in an identifiable location.
In the case of property damage only, the driver and crash victim – once contact has been made between them – can self-file a crash report with FLHSMV, and then do not need law enforcement to file a crash report.
“Leaving the scene of a traffic crash is a crime, even when you are scared. You must stop immediately at the scene of a crash which results in property damage, injury, or death,” said Florida Highway Patrol Director, Colonel Gene S. Spaulding. “If you happen to witness a hit-and-run crash, I urge you to dial *FHP (*347) or contact your local law enforcement to report what you witnessed. Together, we can make a difference in solving hit-and-run crashes.”
Even a small tip can help solve a hit-and-run case. If you have information on a hit-and-run crash, you can report it by calling *FHP (*347) or report it anonymously to Florida Crime Stoppers by calling **TIPS (**8477) or through the Florida Crime Stoppers smartphone phone app, available free in the Apple and Google Play stores.
President of the Florida Association of Crime Stoppers and Executive Director of Manatee County Crime Stoppers Frank Brunner said, “The Florida Association of Crime Stoppers is committed to making Florida a safer place by assisting law enforcement in the gathering of critical information regarding criminal activity such as hit-and-run cases. Through our statewide number, **TIPS (**8477), and our Florida Crime Stoppers smartphone app, any member of the public can easily and anonymously report a crime and could be eligible for a cash reward for information leading to an arrest.”
“Safety is our top priority at the Florida Department of Transportation as we strive to provide diverse, safe, and accessible transportation options throughout the state. Whether behind the wheel, on wheels, or walking, safety is essential on and near roadways,” said Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jared W. Perdue, P.E. “FDOT works hand-in-hand with local communities, partners, and law enforcement, as it’s important that safety is an inclusive community effort. We aspire to have zero fatalities on Florida’s roadways, so if an incident does happen, stay at the scene and contact the authorities. Together, we can make a difference.”
“The Florida Police Chiefs Association stand with our public safety partners to remind motorists to ‘Stay at the Scene’ if you’re involved in a collision,” said Fellsmere Police Department Chief Keith Touchberry, President of the Florida Chiefs Association. “Don’t make the situation worse for yourself with a poor decision to intentionally leave the scene of the collision. Please, stay at the scene, and save yourself a whole lot of trouble.”
“It is important to stay at the scene if you are involved in a traffic crash,” said Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis, President of the Florida Sheriffs Association. “Hit-and-run crashes are against the law, and often lead to criminal penalties. They also hamper law enforcement and drain resources because of prolonged investigations. On behalf of all Florida sheriffs, I fully support the ‘Stay at the Scene Campaign’ for everyone’s benefit.”
“Leaving the scene of a crash risks the lives of others and jeopardizes your freedom,” said Michele Harris, Florida Public Affairs Director, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Do the right thing. Be alert on the road and if you are involved in a crash, remain safely on scene and call for help.”
For more information on the “Stay at the Scene” campaign, including data, downloadable materials, and additional resources, please visit FLHSMV’s Hit-and-Run Awareness webpage, flhsmv.gov/StayAtTheScene.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) provides highway safety and security through excellence in service, education, and enforcement. Florida is leading the way to A Safer Florida through the efficient and professional execution of its core mission: The issuance of driver licenses, vehicle tags and titles, and operation of the Florida Highway Patrol. To learn more about FLHSMV and the services offered, visit flhsmv.gov, follow on Twitter @FLHSMV, find on Facebook, or follow on Instagram.