Study: Hit-and-run accidents growing more common

Hit-and-run accidents have always happened, but recent reports indicate that they are quickly growing more common. One study, which looked at accidents involving fatalities, found that they went up by 60 percent in less than a decade. The study looked at the changes in incidents from 2009 to 2016.

Most of the hit-and-runs actually did not involve other cars — particularly when looking at fatal crashes. About 65 percent of the incidents involved cyclists and pedestrians.

Of course, most accidents are not fatal. Over the decade before 2016, statistics indicate that there were an average of 682,000 hit-and-run accidents every single year. Many just resulted in property damage. In fact, a lot of these accidents tend to involve parked cars, and the cars’ owners may only find out about the accidents long after they happened.

How common is this in California? The study ranked the states based on the deadly hit-and-run crashes, and it found that California ranked in at No. 7 overall. This study was done on a per capita basis, so it takes into account that California has far more residents than states like Vermont (No. 46), New Mexico (No. 1), New Hampshire (No. 50) and Louisiana (No. 2).

Hit-and-run accidents happen for many different reasons. In some cases, drivers honestly do not realize they made contact with another vehicle and drive away from the scene without any malicious intent. No matter what happened in your case or why you have been accused of leaving the accident scene, make sure you understand all of the legal defense options you have when facing these serious charges.

Can you always turn right on red?

As you probably know, it is often legal to turn right on a red light. You simply have to stop like you usually would at the intersection — at the limit line or the crosswalk — and then you can turn right when there is a break in traffic. But can you always turn right on red?

You can’t. There are some exceptions to this rule.

First and foremost, if there is a red arrow, it is illegal to make that turn. A red arrow is not the same as a red light. What it indicates is that the right turns are specifically light-controlled at that intersection. You can only turn if it is green or a flashing yellow. When it turns red, you have to stop and wait, even if the traffic clears.

Another exception is if the intersection has a sign specifically telling you not to turn right on red. Many drivers forget to even check because they are so used to turning. You need to look carefully. Failing to see the sign, or failing to read it, is not an excuse for turning.

Finally, as at any intersection, you must wait if there are pedestrians who are using the crosswalk. Even if the traffic clears and you have properly come to a stop at the line, wait for them to get out of the crosswalk entirely before you turn.

As you can see, driving rules are not always as simple and consistent as you may have assumed. Exceptions can lead to mistakes, which can then lead to tickets. Make sure you know what legal options you have.

Can you accelerate before the speed limit sign?

You drive through the same part of town every day. It starts out in a 25-mph zone right near your house, but it changes to a standard 55-mph zone about two miles along in your daily commute. Since you know the area and you know the sign is coming, you usually start accelerating before you actually get to it. This way, you can get up to 55 mph when you reach the sign. Is this legal?

While it is very common, this is technically illegal. Speed limit signs do not mean you should already be going at that speed when you hit the sign. There is no gray area or buffer zone in front of the sign. As long as you have not passed it yet, you are still in the old speed limit zone. It does not change until the exact spot where they put up that sign.

So, if you are going 45 mph and you are still 100 yards from the sign, the police could pull you over. They do not care that you can see the sign and that you are still 10 mph under that limit. If the sign is still in front of your car, you are actually going 20 mph over the limit. It has not changed yet.

As simple as the idea of a speed limit sounds in theory, you can see how easy it is to make an easy mistake and get a ticket. If this happens to you, make sure you know about all of the legal steps you can take.