In 2003, 36,524 motor vehicle offences were reported in British Columbia. This means that about 36,000 times, drivers operated their vehicles in a way that called for some type of criminal penalty.
The offences involved many types of criminal behaviour, and near the top of the list was “failing to stop at the scene of an accident”. The Canadian Criminal Code states that a person who is involved in a car accident with another person, and tries to escape liability by failing to stop and give a correct name and address, commits a serious offence. Where a collision causes a death in circumstances that amount to murder, the fleeing driver may be facing punishment up to imprisonment for life.
The BC Motor Vehicle Act requires that a driver directly or indirectly, involved in an accident must:
- Remain at or immediately return to the scene of the accident.
- Give all reasonable assistance to other people involved.
- Produce in writing to the other driver, to anyone injured, or to a witness, a correct name and address, the name and address of the vehicle’s owner, the license number, and details of the insurance on the vehicle.
It would be a pretty good guess that most people who “hit and run” do so in an attempt to escape punishment for some difficulty they had already created for themselves before they got in the accident. They may be driving a stolen vehicle, or they may be, unlicensed, uninsured, drunk, underage, wanted by the police, etc. etc.
Some people involved in a collision stop very briefly at the accident scene and then leave. Quickly. Is this a “hit and run”? It probably would be if the driver who leaves, does not give sufficient information to find that driver later.
Some drivers involved in a collision will flee the scene and return later. Is this a “hit and run”? It probably would be, if the return to the scene were not “immediate”.
“Hit and run” offences are not just committed by desperate criminals. Parking lot accidents involving parked vehicles, and vehicles operated by drivers who seem to be very pleasant people, are frequent events. People will do quite a bit of damage in a parking lot, and just leave. This is an offence. The law requires in these circumstances that the driver:
- Provide to the person in charge of, or the owner of, the parked vehicle, all reasonable contact and registration information, in writing, or
- Leave the necessary information in a conspicuous place in or on the vehicle collided with.
Another problem, much less frequent, is a driver crashing a vehicle into roadside property, and then failing to stop. Typically, this may involve a car knocking over someone’s fence or damaging municipal property such as signage. Again, the law requires that the driver makes sure that owner of the property can contact that driver later.
Whenever the responsible driver flees, it complicates the insurance claim and creates additional problems for everyone involved.
Please drive safely.