The Psychology Behind Hit-And-Run Collisions

October 29th, 2018 by Wapner Newman

The Psychology Behind Hit-And-Run Collisions

If it seems difficult to imagine someone hitting a pedestrian or cyclist and just continuing on without staying at the scene, you might be surprised to learn that it happens more frequently than you might assume. According to a study from AAA in spring 2018, the annual number of hit-and-run fatalities increased 62 percent between 2009 and 2016.

In fact, as recently as early October 2018, police were actively seeking a hit-and-run driver who crashed into two men in Limerick, PA, a Montgomery County township not far from Philadelphia. One man was in a wheelchair, and the other was ostensibly pushing him. Both suffered injuries.

What makes a driver who possibly has no other criminal record suddenly commit a criminal act like that one? According to a Washington Post article from fall 2018, the answer might lie in basic human psychology.

Why Drivers Flee Accident Scenes

All vehicle operators are uniquely wired, but they may share some commonalities when it comes to hit-and-run actions.

The first can be a sense of shock. However, the brain may be incapable of dealing with the shock to such an extent that it blocks out what happened. For instance, as the Post piece discussed, some hit-and-run situations are quite graphic, with victims embedded into cars. Yet those drivers still drove home and somehow convinced themselves what they were seeing wasn’t real.

Similarly, other hit-and-run drivers tell themselves they couldn’t have hit a human. Instead, they talk themselves into believing that they just hit a deer and moved on. This response is common, according to police officers. Although in some cases it may be a clear sign of lying by the at-fault driver, in other cases it may be a sincere belief on the part of the operator.

Finally, other drivers who get away from accidents without reporting injuries or fatalities, or even checking on their victims, are afraid of being charged with driving under the influence (DUI). An example would be someone who is intoxicated who hits a pedestrian in a crosswalk. Instead of stopping the vehicle, the driver catastrophizes the idea of getting a DUI, but never thinks about the possibility of extensive jail time and financial punishments for leaving the scene of an accident.

Safety on the Roads Matters

Obviously, psychology cannot be changed. However, it’s important for drivers to understand that even if they don’t think they killed someone they hit, they need to stay at the site until help arrives.  Not only is this the law in Pennsylvania and around the country, but it’s the right thing to do.

In most cases, disciplinary action will be far lighter for drivers who admit their mistakes than for those who don’t. Plus, it could literally save a life if a victim requires emergency attention and would otherwise be left alone without the at-fault driver’s assistance.

Have you been involved in a hit-and-run accident where the driver left the scene? Talk to one of the attorneys at Wapner Newman. Consultations are free.