New research shows why drivers ‘hit and run’

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*

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

Older drivers are more likely to leave the scene of an accident if they don’t think the accident is serious enough to report

An interim independent research report, conducted by the Department of Criminology at the University of Leicester, is starting to identify the reasons why motorists ‘hit and run’. The research has been commissioned by MIB which compensates the innocent victims of accidents with uninsured and ‘hit and run’ drivers.

Survey responses from drivers convicted of ‘hit and run’ offences revealed the following:

- 50% did not think the accident was serious enough to report or they did not think that they had to report the accident (of this, 29% did not think it was serious enough and 21% were unaware of their responsibility to report an accident)*

45% of those convicted would have stopped and reported the incident if they had known that they had committed an offence by leaving the scene of the accident*

16 to 34 year olds were more likely to leave the scene of an accident because they were not insured, they had been drinking, were scared of the consequences or they ‘panicked’

Older drivers (over 34 years old) were more likely to leave the scene if they did not think the accident was serious enough to report

6% of younger drivers (aged 16 -34) said that nothing would have made them stop and report the accident - they were determined to get away with the offence

The public plays an important role in tracing ‘hit and run’ drivers: over 50% of respondents were traced through pedestrians and other drivers who witnessed the accident.*

Department for Transport (DfT) data highlights that in 2014 there were a total of 163,554 road traffic accidents where an injury was sustained and in just over 10% of these accidents a ‘hit and run’ driver was involved. There are serious consequences for drivers who leave the scene of an accident** and often their victims and families suffer potentially long-term physical and emotional impacts which can have significant financial implications.

Successful interventions have been implemented by the government, MIB and the insurance industry to tackle the issue of uninsured driving and as a consequence of these, MIB estimates that the number of uninsured drivers has fallen from 2 million in 2005 to 1 million in 2016. The MIB is concerned that a reduction of a similar scale has not emerged with ‘hit and run’ drivers.

Despite the obvious consequences of ‘hit and run’ offences there is a lack of academic-based research which identifies driver behaviours and motivations. This insight could be used to develop interventions and preventative strategies.

Ashton West OBE, Chief Executive of MIB, explained: “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.”

Commenting on the interim findings 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.”

Notes:

*Percentage of a survey of drivers who have been convicted of ‘hit and run’ offences.

 ** Endorsement codes and penalty points (source DVLA)