Hit and run drivers ‘unaware’

A survey of drivers found guilty of hit and run offences found that 45% claimed they didn’t know it was illegal to leave the scene of an accident.

A further 29% drove on because they didn’t deem the accident serious enough while 21% didn’t realise they had a responsibility to report it.

This is according to research conducted by the Department of Criminology at the University of Leicester, and commissioned by the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB).

The research also found that 16-34 year old were more likely to leave the scene of an accident because they were not insured, had been drinking or were scared of the consequences. Six per cent of this age group said they were determined to get away with the offence and nothing would have made them stop.

MIB estimates that the number of uninsured drivers on UK roads has fallen from two million to one million since 2005, but is concerned that there hasn’t been a similar reduction in the number of hit and run drivers.

This research is intended to identify driver behavior and motivation to develop preventative strategies.

Ashton West OBE, chief executive of MIB, said, ‘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.

‘Until now we have focused very much on dealing with the problem of driving without insurance. Whilst 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.’

Dr Matt Hopkins, senior lecturer at the University of Leicester, added, ‘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.’