CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Hit-and-run traffic crashes with injuries or deaths are currently escalating annually across North Carolina and the nation at an alarming rate, According to AAA.
A new report shows, in Charlotte, a hit-and-run crash with an injury or death occurred every day on average in 2013 and is currently 5.4% higher so far this year.
Statewide, the report shows there are nearly five hit-and-run incidents every day on average in which someone is injured or killed and the driver flees the scene. Last year, there was a 5.7% increase in personal injury hit-and-run crashes (1,663 statewide) and a 13% increase from 325 to 366 in Charlotte.
"This has been buried beneath the public's radar," said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas. "But hit-and-run property damage, injuries or deaths represented nearly one of every four reported accidents in Charlotte last year. This is a painful traffic safety epidemic."
Harsh weather in the first quarter of 2014 reduced traffic and hit-and-run accidents state-wide compared to 2013 but both traffic volume and hit-and-runs are expected to climb the next nine months as the weather warms and summer driving begins, a AAA spokesman told WBTV.
"Drivers feel they have nothing to lose by driving off," said Parsons, who is also a board member of the AAA Carolinas Traffic Safety Foundation. "The drive-off penalty has to be harsh enough that fleeing isn't a desirable option."
"We believe roughly half of the hit-and-run drivers are driving while intoxicated and the other half are driving without a license - either never got one, it was suspended, revoked or expired," said Sgt. David Sloan of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department's Major Crimes Unit.
If you kill someone while driving your car, drive off without stopping, and are later convicted of the offense of hit-and-run causing serious injury and death, the time you could spend in prison is 41-62 months.
With no criminal record, a hit-and-run conviction would make the driver eligible for probation under North Carolina's new 2011 complicated structured sentencing law.