Report calls for national campaign to promote accident responsibility, saying many people don’t see motoring offences as ‘real’ crimes
The percentage of accidents involving hit and runs is now at the highest level in more than a decade. Photograph: Lynne Cameron/Press Association
The number of hit-and-run accidents on Britain’s roads has increased, in part due to people thinking an incident not serious enough – or being unaware of the legal requirement – to report it or leave their details, according to research by insurers and criminologists.
Insurers warned that while victims of hit and run accidents often suffer long-term physical and emotional impacts, the practice was becoming more prevalent, and they called for measures including a national campaign promoting accident responsibility awareness.
Just over 12%, or 17,122, of the 140,056 road traffic accidents causing casualties in 2015 involved a hit-and-run incident, according to Department for Transport figures – up from a rate of just over 10%, or 16,667 in 2014.
While the number of serious road accidents overall has declined, the percentage involving hit-and-runs is now at the highest level in more than a decade.
Researchers found that many of those drivers eventually convicted said they were unaware of their legal responsibilities. A study by the department of criminology at the University of Leicester, surveying almost 700 hit-and-run offenders, found that while some were thinking about their own self-preservation, or were under the influence of alcohol, many did not consider the incident to be serious and used that as a justification for failing to report it.
Dr Matt Hopkins of the University of Leicester said the reasons why people hit and run were complex, but, he added: “Interestingly, there seems to be a public perception that motoring offences are not ‘real crimes’ and therefore there is a tendency for drivers to justify their behaviour.”
The report made a number of recommendations to help tackle this criminal issue, including more education about motorists’ responsibilities and exactly what should be done in the event of an accident, and developing easy ways of reporting accidents such as online apps.
The Motor Insurers’ Bureau handles 15,000 claims a year for victims of hit and runs. Ashton West, chief executive of MIB, said: “Hit-and-runs can have an everlasting impact on the victims and their families. We will be focusing on the recommendations that help raise awareness and educate drivers about their responsibilities.”
Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, has in the past called for tougher penalties for hit-and-run incidents. The Department for Transport declined to comment.