How do you get to work when you’ve got cars going quickly, a plague impatient drivers, too many distracted drivers, traffic jams and all around assholery going on?
And you wonder why your friends and co-workers are getting knocked off.
The number of hit-and-run fatalities jumped 61% from 2009 to 2016, the most recent year for which data are available, according to the report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
About 68% of fatal hit-and-run victims in 2016 were pedestrians or cyclists, compared with 61% a decade earlier, according to federal data cited in the report.
In 2016, 1,980 fatal hit-and-run crashes across the U.S. resulted in 2,049 deaths—both record highs in the roughly four decades that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has tracked such data, the report said.
“On the one hand, these statistics are a bit deflating. On the other hand, we can hope they serve as a wake-up call,” said Jake Nelson, AAA’s director of traffic safety advocacy and research.
A big reason for the rise in fatal hit-and-run crashes is that deadly car crashes are up overall, the foundation said. Traffic-related fatalities surpassed 40,000 last year, the second year in a row, according to the National Safety Council.
Mr. Nelson said one possible reason those deaths have risen is growing distraction in the smartphone era. A recent report by the Governors Highway Safety Association said texting by drivers and pedestrians alike may help explain why pedestrian deaths have hit their highest levels in decades.
Another potential factor Mr. Nelson cited is the push by public health officials to encourage people to walk and bike more. The downside, he said, is those activities make people more vulnerable in the event of a crash involving a car or truck.
The number of bike commuters nationwide has ebbed in recent years, but rose nearly 40% from 2006 to 2016, when 864,000 rode to work, according to the Census Bureau.
To improve safety, he said, pedestrians and cyclists need physical barriers like protected bike lanes—an idea gaining popularity around the U.S. but also causing fights in some places over reduced parking or travel lanes.
The AAA report says state legislatures are cracking down on hit-and-run drivers. In every state it is illegal for a driver involved in a crash to flee. Over the past five years, more than a dozen states have passed new laws typically boosting jail time, fines and the length of a driver’s license suspension. But the report said researchers have found legal sanctions don’t appear to have a deterrent effect.
Mr. Nelson said motorists should know that staying at the scene isn’t only the law, it can help ensure victims get prompt medical care.
The ultimate aim is to prevent crashes, he said, and his message for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists is: “Just pay attention, open your eyes, keep your head up and focus on what you’re doing.”