Hit-and-run accidents pose a growing threat to Denver drivers

State data indicates that hit-and-run accidents occur at an above-average rate in Denver, and deadly hit-and-run crashes may be becoming more common.

Over the last several years, hit-and-run accidents and fatalities have become more common across the U.S., even as overall traffic deaths have fallen. Unfortunately for Denver residents, the city is no exception to this pattern. According to a 9 News investigation, hit-and-run accidents occur at more than twice the national rate in Denver. Furthermore, the number of these accidents that result in death may be on the rise.

A dangerous epidemic

The investigation, which examined hit-and-run accidents that have occurred over the last several years in Colorado, reveals several alarming trends. In 2014, a total of 22 people lost their lives throughout the state in these accidents. This represented a more than 20 percent increase over the number of fatalities that occurred in 2013. However, hit-and-run accidents happen even more frequently than these figures suggest, as the following facts reveal:

  • From 2011 to 2014, an average of 17 hit-and-run accidents were reported in Denver each day.
  • Between 2011 and 2013, drivers fled the scene after 28 percent of all accidents that occurred in Denver. In contrast, across the country, the overall average hit-and-run rate is about 10 percent.
  • In 2013, an average of 1.3 people suffered injuries each day as a result of hit-and-run accidents that took place in Denver, Lakewood or Aurora.

Often, these accidents involve alcohol and affect the most vulnerable road users, according to the investigation. Overall, more than half of hit-and-run fatality victims are pedestrians. Additionally, about two-thirds of the hit-and-runs that occurred in Colorado in 2014 were alcohol-related accidents. According to authorities, intoxication is often cited as a primary factor that makes drivers more likely to flee after causing accidents.

Addressing hit-and-runs

To counter this growing problem, state lawmakers have taken various steps to deter hit-and-runs or improve resolution of these accidents. The statute of limitations for hit-and-run crashes has been raised to 10 years, which may lead to more drivers being held accountable for their actions. State authorities also now use a system modeled after the Amber Alert system to find and apprehend hit-and-run drivers, according to SCPR News.

This program has already led to increased resolution of hit-and-run cases. Before the program was implemented, the arrest rate for hit-and-run accidents in Denver was just 20 percent; afterward, the rate rose to 76 percent. Sadly, though, many hit-and-run drivers still go uncaught. Additionally, even when these drivers are apprehended, their victims often suffer needless injuries or complications as a result of not receiving needed medical attention immediately after the accident.

Options for victims

Legal remedies may be available to the victims of these accidents, depending on the circumstances. If the responsible driver is eventually found, victims may be able to seek compensation from that driver's insurance provider. If the case isn't resolved, victims may have the option of making claims against their own insurance policies. For further advice, anyone who has been harmed in a hit-and-run accident should consider consulting with an attorney.