The number of pedestrians killed by hit-and-run drivers has jumped 20% since 2000 and is at its highest level in a decade, a USA TODAY analysis shows. The increase compounds the problems of investigating hit-and-run cases, which investigators say are among the most difficult crimes to solve because they often happen at night with no witnesses. “Even if you’re lucky enough to get the car, you can’t always get the driver,” says Richard Ashton of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
Of the 4,881 pedestrians killed last year, 974 died in hit-and-runs, records show. The total number of pedestrians killed nationwide increased by about 2% since 2000, but hit-and-run deaths increased at almost 10 times that pace. No national tally exists showing how many hit-and-run cases are solved. In many investigations in which drivers are later found, they tell police that they fled out of fear or because they had been drinking and wanted to avoid legal trouble.