Can we stop runnning?

This week, the Research Inspector discusses a study that examined why people make off after being involved in road traffic collisions and if it is possible to influence them to report rather than run.

Nov 22, 2017

Research on ‘hit-and-run’ collisions by Dr Matt Hopkins, Associate Professor at the University of Leicester, and Lecturer Sally Chivers of De Montfort University, funded by the Motor Insurers Bureau, has examined the reasons why drivers leave the scene of a road traffic collision. A hit-and-run is defined as a road traffic collision in which the driver of a ‘striking’ vehicle flees the scene without aiding the victim or offering information (Roshandeh et al, 2016: 22). In the UK, the number of collisions involving a hit-and-run driver in which an injury was sustained increased from 15,390 in 2013 to 17,122 in 2015. Worryingly, over the same period, the proportion of collisions involving a hit-and-run driver (where any injury was sustained to a pedestrian, driver or passenger) also increased from 11.1 per cent in 2013 to 12.2 per cent in 2015 (Department for Transport, 2016). While the absence of an insured driver after a collision can place a financial burden on victims, the most concerning consequences are the obvious potential physical injuries and emotional trauma to victims – and the potential effect on their families. Surprisingly, although hit-and-run collisions are regularly reported in the media, virtually no UK-based academic research exists. Contributory factors in hit-and-run collisions Internationally, a body of work has identified several contributory factors associated with hit-and-run collisions in countries as diverse as China, the US, Japan, Singapore and Ghana. Usefully, such studies have identified that collisions involving pedestrians are more likely to involve a hit-and-run driver, and drivers are most likely to be male, have previous convictions for motoring-related offences and not have a valid licence. It has also been identified that alcohol consumption is a common factor; collisions are more likely to occur at weekends and when visibility/light conditions are poor (see Zhou et al, 2016 for a useful overview of contributory factors in hit-and-run collisions). Motivations for hit-and-run The most commonly used explanatory framework for hit-and-run is based around what Fujita et al (2014:285) refer to as a “classic economic cost-benefit approach” where it is suggested that drivers make a rational choice decision to leave the collision scene by considering the likely benefits of leaving the scene against the costs/consequences of staying. However, to date, the framework has been subject to little critical analysis. Therefore, our recent research tested this assumption by conducting interviews with 52 hit-and-run drivers. The research sample was drawn from DVLA records and of the 52 drivers who were interviewed, 13 were involved in collisions in which there was extensive damage to a vehicle. In such cases at least one vehicle was either written-off or there were questions over whether a vehicle could be driven away from the collision. In 15 there was some damage to a vehicle or road furniture: in such cases there were clearly visible dents to bodywork. In 19 collisions there was minor damage to a vehicle, such as paintwork scratches. Twelve collisions also involved a pedestrian or cyclist, with one pedestrian sustaining life-threatening injuries. The research interviews identified a number of motivational reasons why drivers left the scene. Drivers were grouped in to the following typologies: 1. Rational escapists – these drivers make a rational decision to leave the scene as they are most fearful of the costs of reporting. This group is the most likely to be driving illegally (they might have no insurance/licence, etc); 2. Uncertain departers – drivers who state that the severity of the collision is minor or trivial. They commonly deny they have acted illegally by not stopping/reporting. Often this group is unclear about whether the collision should be reported at all; 3. Panickers – this group is least able to deal with the shock of the collision and cite ‘panic’ as a reason for leaving the scene; 4. The intimidated – drivers who stop after a col

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