Why do so many people flee accident scenes?

Has there ever been any studies on this issue? I was just reading about how Halle Berry was placed on three years probation and ordered to pay $13,500 in fines and penalties after pleading no contest on May 10, 2000 to a misdemeanor charge of leaving the scene of a traffic accident.

I know of at least 5 other people personally who have done this. It seems there is something largely psychological to it. Think it’s the “I don’t want to get caught doing something bad” thought process? I’m sure some people are drunk, but I’ve heard of people fleeing legit accidents and had no reason to flee !


Blind panic I would think. The “if I get away from the accident then it hasn’t happened” mentality.

Well, here in San Jose, we just had a good reason. A 55 yo driver guy hit a ped dude in an X-walk, got out of his car to help, and was beat half to death by the dudes buds. This might be a reason to stay in you car and call it in, but certainly not to leave the scene.

But I think the real reason* is* panic. You are not thinking straight. I do not think anyone logically goes “Well, maybe I can escape blame if I drive away”.

Oh, and one final thing: dudes- if it is a minor fender bender, and no one was injured, and both cars can still drive- take it off the road. You don’t have to block traffic with it. Take it off the freeway or off the main drag into a nearby drive way. Make sure the other guy isn’t hurt, note his car license #, then tell him where you’ll go to exchange info. IF you are both insured, and no one is seriously injured, you don’t even have to call the police (at least here in CA). Do call the Police if the other dude is driving impaired or has no insurance or ID. If anyone is injured at all, call 911.

A report does have to be filed with the DMV (here in CA), but your insurance co will do it for you- if you tell them, of course. If you both* jointly *decide the damage is so minor that even the insurance co’s don’t have to be involved, then the law would seem to say the Police/DMV do not have to be notified either. IANAL.

But the important thing is- get the fuck out of the godamn highway so you don’t get more cars involved! An easy way to turn a fender bender into a traffic fatality is to get out of your damn car in heavy traffic. (Oh, and the fact that the traffic won’t turn into a giant parking lot is a nice side benefit for everyone else) If you can- get it off the highway. It’s perfectly legal to do so, *if *there are no serious injuries, you both know that you’re driving just a short distance away, and both cars will still go. IANAL.

Another reason may be if you have been drinking. If you can get home and stay undetected for enough hours to sober up, you can’t be charged with DUI as well as hit and run. Ugly thinking, I know.

Another reason may be unfamiliarity with the consequences. When I worked in Memphis we had a lot of Chinese medical residents to whom I would pose this question: Suppose you are driving along Union when a drunk old guy steps out from behind a car, and you hit him, and he dies. You were not speeding, you were not driving recklessly, and you don’t leave the scene. What happens to you?

The usual answers were “you go to jail” or worse. I don’t think everyone knows that the correct answer is “you will not be charged”. Go free.

I think leaving the scene of an accident where your car has injured someone else proves you are a shit. Hi, Halle Berry.

I think it’s mostly just a primative “fight or flight” response. Subconsciously, people think of the police as being preditors (like lions or bears) and if you do something that will attract their attention, instinct tells you to run away before you get caught.

Mr. Adrenalin is not our friend in traffic.

I have known a couple people who have left either fearing a DUI, or because they had no insurance.

Yes, if you hit a ped dude- even if it’s your accidental fault- there is no jail time, and likely not even a moving violation. Your insurance comapny will handle the damages. However, if you hit the same dude in the same accident- but drive away instead- you will very likely go to jail, and lose your license. Driving away also makes the assumption of guilt fall on you, so if the drunk dude in the accident descibed above got hit by you in the accident as decribed- it wouldn’t even be charged as an accident against you! But if you drove away- manslaughter. Could be several years of prison.

This happened to me- a homeless dude, “under the influence” trotted straight out into the street in front of me, and I hit him hard. I stopped, call 911, checked to see if there was anything I could do in the way of 1st aid, and then the police arrived and took over. The police praised me for stopping and wrote right there on the accident report “not the drivers fault”. My insurance company paid for my damages without a murmur, and there was no accident on my record even. The homeless dude was hospitalized for a broken hip.

Heh… this question makes me think of the movie, The Machinist (great Christian Bale flick).

I would agree, I think panic, or perhaps shock would make some people keep driving. Else, it could be that the perp has a record already and knows they’re screwed if caught.

Maybe it works. How many times do people flee the scene of an accident and are never heard from again? Not always panic, might be cold-blooded selfishness.

Right. Many years ago, at least in California, the penalty for leaving the scene was pretty strong. Now everywhere it is just a minor fine or other slap-on-the wrist. So, if somebody’s driving impaired, they figure the penalty will be far less for leaving the scene than for DUI.

There should be very drastic penalties for leaving the scene, especially if an injury accident. Many legislators everywhere probably do a lot of DUI, so are loath to increase the penalties.

I would call the police anyway because people will change their story after the fact and it’s nice to have the report in writing up-front.

I think the reason I wouldn’t move my car is I want it to show exactly what happened. Again, if there is any doubt, the other person can change their story and shift the fault, etc.

You’d be surprised how many people in some places have pending warrants for their arrest, or know darned well that they’re uninsured, driving on a revoked license and are more likely to go to jail if they stop than if they don’t.

This has to be the worse case of someone leaving the scene of an accident.

^Actually, did she leave the scene? I thought she took it home with her.

Bad idea. As DrDeth said, moving out of the way of traffic is much better. First of all, you are no longer blocking traffic, but most importantly, it is safer. You probably don’t want a fender bender to turn into a major injury accident when some clown on a cellphone doesn’t notice that your cars are stopped. Around here both civilians and cops get killed even when they are on the shoulder.

Experts can usually tell what happened by the damage to the cars anyway.

Yup, see that’s the crazy thing, most people don’t get in trouble UNTIL they leave the scene. Soon as you do that, then the real crime takes place. Most need to realize this. Sad

And to add to Voyager’s excellent response- the Police are there to save lives and handle emergencies, not be overly concerned over your minor civil liability issues. Don’t worry about “stories”: don’t try and get a story, don’t tell a story, don’t ask about blame or anything. Get their ID and insurance info, and give them the same. Do not discuss blame or anything else. Report your side to your insurance company quickly and factually. Do not speak to their insuance company, unless directed to do so by your insurance co, your attorney or a judge.

Even if “they” change their “story” it’s no big deal- some dudes are so confused after the accident that Judges, trial attornies and Insurance companies expect some changes.

Do record the time of day, the actual location, etc.

Get the fuck out of the street. At the very very worst, no matter how the other guy lies his ass off, you are out for a maximum of your insurance deductable- around $200 for most dudes. How much is your life worth?

Sure it works, if you mean getting away with it. Where I live, hit-and-runs are not even investigated by the police unless someone was injured or killed. I was rammed by a car that just drove away after the accident. I filed a full report at the police station and that included the car’s license plate number and descriptions of the car and driver. When I called to check on my case, I was told nothing will be investigated since I was not hurt or killed. Unbelievable.

The important thing here, to me at least, is to get the license info before you decide to move off-street. I had some jerk hit my car, and we made motions to each other about where to pull over (it was a super crowded 2-lane street), and then he just drove off. I only had part of his license and didn’t even get the make of the car. A complete waste, but luckily it was only cosmetic damage.