California takes new tact to combat hit-and-run accidents

A new “Yellow Alert” system could lead to improved resolution of the large number of hit-and-run accidents that occur in California each year.

Accidents in which the at-fault driver flees the scene have become a prevalent issue in California, as many Santa Fe Springs residents know firsthand. In nearby Los Angeles, nearly half of all accidents are now classified as hit-and-runs, according to Reuters. In 2014, these hit-and-run crashes caused 144 serious personal injuries and claimed 27 lives. Sadly, in many cases victims were left without recourse, as only about one-fifth of the reported accidents were resolved.

Fortunately for state residents and visitors, lawmakers have now passed legislation that seeks to improve the resolution of these cases. This measure could help ensure that more drivers are held responsible after causing serious motor vehicle accidents.

Alert system enacted

The legislation, which went into effect at the start of 2016, establishes a "Yellow Alert" system that is closely modeled after the Amber Alert system, according to NBC News. The system allows authorities to broadcast identifying information about the vehicles involved in hit-and-run accidents on highway signs near the scene of each accident. These alerts may also be shared on television or on the radio.

Yellow Alerts will not be issued after every reported hit-and-run accident, according to authorities. Instead, the alerts are reserved for crashes that cause serious injuries and fatal auto accidents. Additionally, authorities can only issue an alert if they have adequate identifying information about the vehicle or the person who was driving it.

Improved case resolution expected

Although the effectiveness of this system remains to be seen, the impacts that a similar system had in Colorado suggest that this approach may greatly improve apprehension of hit-and-run drivers. SCPR News reports the following facts about the system and its results in Colorado:

• Before Denver introduced the alert system, the city had a low hit-and-run case resolution rate of 20 percent.

• With the system in place, the arrest rate for these cases increased to 76 percent.

• Due to its success, the use of the alert system has been expanded to all of Colorado.

Unfortunately, even if this system proves equally effective in California, authorities and victims may still face challenges in holding hit-and-run drivers accountable. The system is unlikely to produce a resolution rate of 100 percent. Also, as NBC News notes, even if authorities locate a vehicle that was involved in a hit-and-run crash, establishing who was driving it at the time of the accident may remain a challenge.

Holding reckless drivers responsible

When drivers who fled after causing accidents are apprehended, accident victims or their surviving family members may have legal recourse. However, proving that a driver was involved in an accident and also at fault can be challenging. To improve the likelihood of securing needed recompense, victims may benefit from discussing the situation and potential legal strategies with an attorney.