AAA Warns of Rise in Fatal Hit-and-Runs

By Ashley Halsey III
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 22, 2009

After a pair of hit-and-runs last week -- one killing a pedestrian and the other critically injuring a cyclist -- AAA says the region is experiencing an alarming increase in such accidents.

AAA Mid-Atlantic said that after 44 fatal hit-and-run accidents in Virginia and Maryland last year, the anecdotal evidence suggests that the number has increased in 2009, keeping pace with a national trend that saw 1,500 such cases last year, the majority of them involving pedestrians.

"About 60 percent of the people killed in hit-and-run crashes are pedestrians," said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic's manager of public and government affairs, adding that "one in five pedestrian fatalities involve hit-and-run drivers."

Most such accidents take place in urban areas, Townsend said, explaining why far more incidents were recorded in Maryland (19,311) last year than in Virginia (6,757). No numbers were available for the District.

"Once you get beyond Northern Virginia, Richmond and Hampton Roads, the state is not that urbanized, while Maryland is much more so," Townsend said.

On Thursday, a 36-year-old pedestrian was killed on Annapolis Road in Riverdale, according to Prince George's County police. On Friday, an 18-year-old bicyclist was critically injured in the District, police said. Neither driver has been apprehended.

AAA is the only agency that keeps a yearly regional record of such incidents. County police will send a year-end tally to the state, which forwards a compilation to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Among hit-and-run incidents AAA has noted so far this year:

-- A driver struck two women as they walked across Capitol View Avenue in Silver Spring on Aug. 30. One of the women was dragged by the vehicle about 113 feet and then was run over by the driver. The other woman was dragged about 83 feet. Both survived.

-- In August, a 28-year-old bicyclist was killed on Lee Highway near Lake Manassas Drive in Gainesville. Emmanuel Yeboah was pedaling home on the shoulder of the road when his bike was struck from behind.

-- In July, one cyclist was killed and another was injured in a crash near Ocean City, according to the Maryland State Police.

-- Also in July, two men in a pickup were killed when their vehicle went airborne over a Beltway guardrail in Montgomery County after a woman struck them from behind with her vehicle and then drove off.

-- In March, a driver struck and injured a pedestrian at Wilson Boulevard and North Fort Myer Drive, Arlington County police said.

A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that "deadly hit and run crashes most often occur on weekends and during the evening. Fifty-eight percent of fatal hit and run crashes occur on Friday, Saturday or Sunday; forty-seven percent of fatal hit and run crashes occur between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m."

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