WASHINGTON — It is a startling statistic about the mean streets of the nation’s capital. Washington D.C. leads the country in fatal hit-and-runs.
One in six fatal accidents between 2000 and 2009 in the District of Columbia involved a driver who fled the scene, according to Mid-Atlantic AAA. That’s 76 lives, including pedestrians and cyclists. It’s the highest rate in the country.
Virginia, with more than ten times the population of D.C., had 217 people die in hit-and-runs during the same 10 years. Maryland had 279.
Spokesman John Townsend says many of the drivers who fled the scene were drunk, unlicensed or driving unregistered cars.
“It is criminal and cold blooded,” he says. “That’s what’s so disconcerting about this, that you could kill another human being or injure or maim the person and leave them without assisting them.”
Tougher penalties combined with a better understanding of the legal consequences of hit-and-run accidents may be a partial solution, he says.
According to AAA, there has also been an uptick in the number of hit-and-run fatal incidents in 2011, which was not included in the survey.
Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation, says four people die in the United States each day in a traffic crash caused by a driver who flees the scene.
From 2000 to 2009, hit-and-run drivers killed 16,382 people nationwide.