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Fleeing the scene: Why drivers perform 'hit and runs'

2016-04-25 08:12

'HIT AND RUNS' EXPLAINED: Research has been conducted into why road users flee the scene of a crash. Image: iStock


Dash-cam footage shows a terrible hit-and-run incident in Australia - a silver Ford Falcon smashes into another vehicle and the driver flees the scene. The car was found burnt out two days later.

London - A motorist collides with a fellow road-user or pedestrian but instead of taking responsibility, he/she flees the scene... sadly, this scenario plays out all to often on South Africa's roads but what is the psychology behind a 'hit and run'.

The Department of Criminology at the University of Leicester recently conducted research, commissioned by Motor Insurance Bureau (MIB), as to the cause behind hit and runs. The results are rather eye-opening.

Research into why drivers in car crashes ‘hit and run’ reveals 1 in 2 motorists are unaware it’s an offence to leave the scene of an accident though respondents admit they wouldn’t have done so had they known.

Shocking results

Ashton West OBE, chief executive of MIB, explained: “Being involved in an accident can be an unsettling and traumatic experience which is made worse when the other driver doesn’t stop. There is a real need to understand why there are so many ‘hit and run’ accidents."

Here are the results of the survey:

  • 50% did not think the accident was serious enough to report or they did not think that had to report the accident (of this, 29% did not think it was serious enough and 21% were unaware of their responsibility to report an accident)

  • 45% of those convicted would have stopped and reported the incident if they had known that they had committed an offence by leaving the scene of the accident

  • 16 to 34-year-olds were more likely to leave the scene of an accident because they were not insured, they had been drinking, were scared of the consequences or they ‘panicked’

  • Older drivers (over 34-years-old) were more likely to leave the scene if they did not think the accident was serious enough to report

  • 6% of younger drivers (aged 16 -34) said that nothing would have made them stop and report the accident - they were determined to get away with the offence 

  • The public plays an important role in tracing ‘hit and run’ drivers: over 50% of respondents were traced through pedestrians and other drivers who witnessed the accident.

West continued: “We are working to raise awareness of ‘hit and run’ offences and the impact on society with the ultimate aim of bringing the number of incidents down. The completion of this independent research will provide useful insights which we will share with the government, police, the insurance industry and other interested bodies so that we can take action to tackle this problem together.”

Who else had a great Monday and started it by discovering something like this?!

A photo posted by Charles (@catapillar9887) on

Dealing with hit and runs in SA

Arrive Alive editor, Johan Jonck, shares tips when dealing with a hit and run in SA:

1. Stop
Do not chase after a vehicle fleeing the scene. Do not attempt to make a citizens arrest, rather focus on the safety of the victim(s)!

2. Contact the authorities
When you witness a hit and run incident, call for both emergency medical assistance and the police. The authorities have the necessary skillset and know-how to deal with it. 

3. Provide assistance 
Find out whether you are able to render assistance even if you're merely securing the scene and protecting the victim from another collision.

4. Gather details and evidence 
Details might include identifying the make and colour of the vehicle and, if possible, the registration number or parts of it. These details might allow the police to trace the vehicle and to use CCTV cameras in the area to find the owner.

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