TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — As more drivers hit the road in the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida saw the number of car accidents, injuries and deaths due to hit-and-runs increase after a six-year low in 2020.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reported the number of hit-and-run accidents in 2021 went up by 17% compared to 2020. Fatalities and serious injuries went up even more. Safer numbers reached in the first year of the pandemic rose past where they’d fallen from in just the past year.
According to FLHSMV, 2020 only had 92,263 hit-and-run crashes. The department analysis found accidents were most frequent at dawn, dusk and nighttime, when visibility was lower due to less light. Data from FLHSMV also showed 70% of the hit-and-run crashes in 2021 killed non-drivers.
Of the 304 fatalities in 2021, 169 were pedestrians and 45 were bicyclists. In 2020, both of those numbers were lower, with just 140 pedestrians and 27 bicyclists killed by drivers.
“Hit-and-run crashes and fatalities are tragically on the rise in our state – causing devastation to Florida’s families and communities,” said Terry L. Rhodes, FLHSMV Executive Director. “Drivers who choose to flee after being involved in a crash that results in property damage, injury, or death are not just breaking the law – they are displaying a blatant disregard for the life and property of others. Please, stay at the scene and call for help – it could save a life.”
The Florida Highway Patrol is still investigating 131 fatal hit-and-runs from 2021. There are 91 fatalities still under investigation from the year before. FHP’s Homicide Investigation Tracking System logs them, and keeps open cases available to the public online.
While 2020 had fewer than 1,000 serious injuries from hit-and-run crashes, 2021 saw almost 1,200. Between the two years, 2021 saw almost 200 additional injuries and nearly 50 additional fatalities. In terms of just crashes, regardless of outcome, 2021 had 15,982 more hit-and-runs than the year before.
“If you are involved in a traffic crash, it’s not only the right thing to do, but it’s your responsibility to remain at the scene and immediately contact law enforcement,” said FHP Director Colonel Gene Spaulding. “With hit-and-run crashes on the rise, we need the public’s assistance in solving these cases and bringing justice to families who have lost a loved one, been injured, or had property damaged because someone left the scene in violation of Florida law.”