On The Legal Deterrence Of Pedestrian Hit-and-Run Collisions


Hit-and-run collisions—those in which a driver involved in the collision leaves the scene before the arrival of law enforcement officials—are a unique type of traffic violation because the driver's decision is a question of damage control rather than damage prevention. To reduce hitand-run violations, individual state laws impose legal sanctions to deter drivers from leaving the collision scene prematurely. Deterrence Theory dictates that compliance with laws is associated with the certainty, severity, and swiftness of punishment. The purpose of this study is to explore the deterrent effect of legal sanctions on the rate of hit-and-run collisions. Legal sanctions for hitand-run violations across the United States were compared with the prevalence of pedestrian hitand-run collisions in those states. Specifically, the severity of punishment, the certainty of punishment, and the excess legal sanctions of hit-and-run were compared with the rates of hitand-run. The results of these analyses suggest that legal sanctions do not have a significant deterrent effect on hit-and-run collisions. Uncertainty regarding the likelihood of being caught or the severity of punishment may impair the effects of legal sanctions to reduce hit-and-run incidents. However, the data indicate that social sanctions may deter drivers from hit-and-run violations. Further study is necessary to determine which deterrence mechanism would be the most effective for reducing hit-and-run violations.

Grembek, Offer
Griswold, Julia B.
Publication date: 
January 1, 2012
Publication type: 
Working Paper