New research identifies reasons why drivers ‘hit and run’

12.00 | 19 April 2016 | | 5 comments

Almost half (45%) of ‘hit and run’ drivers would not have left the scene of the accident if they had known that by doing so they were committing an offence, according to a new report.

The interim independent research report was conducted by the Department of Criminology at the University of Leicester on behalf of the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB).

The report also concluded that younger drivers are more likely to leave the scene of an accident because ‘they are uninsured, have been drinking, are scared of the consequences, or panic’.

In contrast, older drivers are more likely to do so if ‘they don’t think the accident is serious enough to report’.

DfT data shows that in 2014 there were 163,554 road traffic collisions where an injury was sustained, and a ‘hit and run’ driver was involved in just over 10% of these incidents.

Of drivers convicted of ‘hit and run’ offences, 29% did not think it was serious enough to report the accident while 21% were unaware of their responsibility to do so.

Dr Matt Hopkins, senior lecturer at the University of Leicester, said: “As relatively little previous work in relation to ‘hit and run’ accidents has included any personal engagement with offenders, this research is fairly novel.

“Of course, these findings have to be treated with caution, but they do begin to highlight some of the reasons why drivers leave the scene of an accident.

“For a number of drivers there is clearly confusion about the legal requirement to report an accident, but importantly, some differences are observed between younger and older drivers that could be developed into preventative strategies.

“Further work is required to gain more detailed understanding of driver motivations to leave the scene from across a range of accident types. This is where the next stage of the research will focus.”

The MIB says that despite the obvious consequences of ‘hit and run’ offences there is a lack of academic-based research which identifies driver behaviours and motivations.

Ashton West OBE, MIB chief executive, said: “Until now we have focused on dealing with the problem of driving without insurance. While the level of uninsured driving in the UK has halved in the last 10 years, the number of claims reported to the MIB from ‘hit and run’ incidents has not fallen by anywhere near this amount.

“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.”


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    I’m a retired Police Officer and in the last six months of my service I was tasked with dealing with non-stop rtc’s which had been reported by the aggrieved persons at the Police Station front offices.

    I found woefully poor procedure on the part of the Police Officers to which these reports were then allocated to, mainly due to the fact of their heavier more pressing workload and their consideration of the “victim”.

    I also found that the “runners” deemed it to be unimportant and as the report says, were genuinely not aware that they were committing an offence. There were many however that were fully aware and were shirking their responsibilities and thought they could get away with it.

    Senior Management also didn’t think it important enough to warrant further investigation.

    From talking to current serving officers (I retired in 2008) it is considered a very low priority and will probably not be investigated unless there is serious injury.

    Ges Gilbert, West Midlands
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    I hope that not too much money was spent on this research. “I didn’t know….” is what lawyers imagine a Bench of judge may be swayed by. It is utter rubbish to say that after having damaged something or injured someone, a driver feels it is ok to drive off, or more likely run off. Usually it is to avoid prosecution for the driving offence, drink, no insurance or a combination. The research is aimed to draw attention to no insurance offences which is laudable, but lets make that offence immediate disqualification and take the vehicle. That will protect the rest of us and get the attention of the criminals. (Research also shows that those who commit these offences are more prone to other acts of dishonestty/criminality)

    Olly Lancs
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    Bear in mind the law which applies here, a detail present since the 1903 Motor Car Act recognised the harm that a motor car can cause whether it physically hits a person or property, or causes injury or damage. Section 170 essentially is about the driver evading responsibility, by fleeing the scene.

    Terms like taking flight, and running away imply the behaviours associated with a departure to avoid consequences of a preceding action. So “The driver fled the scene after xxxx” enables a greater description of the harm and damage beyond that lightweight 3 letters that could easily be transposed with the word ‘tip’ and its association with playground games.

    Dave Holladay
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    The problems with surveys like this is that take answers at face value. In the real world, we know the difference between “cop-out” excuses like “Gee, I didn’t know…..” made up when caught with the truth. After all, who is going to be brazen enough to say “Of course I knew I should have stopped, but was hoping no one took my plate number down.”

    People run because they don’t want to face the consequences, plain and simple. For some, because they were drunk or unlicensed, for others because they didn’t want to pay.

    If I were a judge and at sentencing, the defendant said “I didn’t know I had to stop…..” I’d automatically revoke his license because he’s obviously not responsible enough to be out and about with a car.

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    I have always thought that the expression “hit and run” was a term that is far too benign and associated with rounders or cricket rather than what can often much more accurately be described as “kill and drive off”.

    Rod King, Cheshire, 20’s Plenty for Us
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