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Do state laws encourage hit and run drivers?

People in California may have read a controversial news article about hit and run driving laws in California, and how the lack of a sufficiently severe penalty may be contributing to the rise in drivers who flee the scene of a car accident.

The article reported that since the beginning of 2014, there have been at least eight fatal hit and run car accidents in the San Diego area, including a recent case when a pedestrian was mowed over by a suspected drunk driver. The problem seems to be escalating, which has some experts questioning whether California criminal penalties for drunk drivers who leave the scene of an accident are harsh enough. When penalties aren't strong enough, some argue, it may incentivize people to flee the scene of a drunk driving accident in the hopes that they will get away without being caught.

Under California law, the penalty for hit and run depends largely on whether a person is hurt or killed as a result of the accident. If the car accident causes only property damage, the penalty for hit and run is only a misdemeanor, generally punishable by a fine and points on one's license. This pales in comparison to the penalty for DUI, which generally leads to a license suspension, fines, and time in a diversion program, at the very least.

DUI causing injury or death to a person, though, carries a far more severe penalty, including potential jail time. But sometimes drunk drivers don't even stop long enough to investigate whether or not they have harmed someone, and when panic sets in, their fight or flight reflex may lead them to choose the latter.

Hit and run is a serious problem that deserves serious attention. Victims of drunk drivers who flee the scene of a crash deserve justice and compensation for their losses. With the help of an experienced personal injury attorney, these victims may be able to hold these irresponsible drivers responsible for their actions.

Source: NBC 7 San Diego "Why Drivers Flee Accident Scene Could Be Tied to Penalty," Candice Nyugen, Feb. 25, 2014

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