POSTED: Friday, March 22, 2013 - 1:00pm
UPDATED: Friday, March 22, 2013 - 3:39pm
BATON ROUGE, LA (NBC33) — Evan Buck was washing dishes in his apartment on Carol Marie Drive when he heard a loud crash. For some reason, he just knew it was his car.
“I guess maybe six or seven months ago, I was on Lee and a guy rear ended me,” he said. “I cannot stay out of trouble with accidents, even though their not my fault.”
When he walked outside, sure enough it was his parked car that had been smashed. What he didn’t know at the time was that the driver who caused it was casually attempting to escape.
“The girl who lives across the street stood in front of his car to prevent him from driving away,” Buck recalled. “When she moved, he hauled it down the street a bit, but he didn’t get far because his wheels were off the rims.
“In the midst of all the confusion, we were all looking at the cars and they [the driver and passenger] started to walk away. I didn’t have shoes on, but I tried to follow them.”
An hour passed before the driver of the vehicle was apprehended by Baton Rouge Police Officers at the Rite Aid located across the street from where the crash occurred. David Swanson, 28, was charged with Hit-and-Run, Reckless Operation, No Insurance and Failure to Report an Accident. The passenger in his vehicle was treated by EMS at the scene for a head injury.
“It’s just an epidemic,” Buck said about his opinion of hit-and-run crashes in Baton Rouge. “Whether you’re drunk or texting, it happens every day across the city.”
Although it might be a stretch to call it an epidemic, the number of hit-and-run crashes is probably higher than one might imagine.
The Baton Rouge Police Department reports that it responds to roughly 220 hit-and-run crashes a month out of roughly 1,300 total incidents. That does not include those that occur on the LSU or Southern campuses, where roughly a third of all their crashes are hit-and-run.
“The majority of the problems we see are people coming in and out of parking lots,” Cpt. Cory Lalond, LSU Police Department, said. “That’s one of the biggest factors is that we have concentrated areas of parking.”
Last year, LSU PD responded to 472 total traffic crashes, and 135 were hit-and-run. However, as in most cases, many of those damages were not reported to insurance agencies.
“There are 10s of thousands of accidents in Louisiana every year,” Gary Stevenson, State Farm Insurance, said. “Hit-and-run returns are a very small percentage of that number.”
Stevenson explained that the reason those claims are not being filed is because a lot of the damage is minor. However, the person who causes such a crash might be in some serious trouble if caught by law enforcement.
“If we determine that a person has been involved in that situation, that would be considered a negative on their driving record and it would call into question their insurability,” he explained. “The circumstances vary case by case. A lot of these situations are in parking lots with very minor damage. That might be something we consider not so serious. But, if there’s serious damage caused, we might drop them.”
Depending on the severity of the crash, a hit-and-run driver could face serious fines and even jail time.
If there’s no serious bodily injury or fatality, it’s defined as a misdemeanor, which includes a fine as high as $500 and jail time of no less than 10 days and no more than 6 months.
If there is serious injury, the driver could face a felony charge, which includes a fine as high as $5,000 and imprisonment with or without hard labor for no more than 10 years.
Ultimately, every case is different, but the best thing to do is avoid the charge in the first place.