It was an ordinary winter night. Lights twinkled in the distance and my breath formed visible clouds in front of me. I was embarking on my usual walk home from school in downtown Bellevue, bundling tight into my sweater and allowing my mind to wander aimlessly. I approached a crosswalk next to the mall and I was halfway across the street when I saw the red hand signaling the seconds. In the next instant I was hit by a car.
Now I know what you’re wondering. Thanks for your concern, but miraculously I managed to escape unscathed with the exception of a couple minor bruises. Still, in my mind I was in shock. What if I had left the sidewalk a second later? What if the car had been going a bit faster? And what was the story of the driver? Did he simply not see me in the dark? Was he late for something? Had he been drinking?
Unfortunately, as soon as I had moved out of the way, the driver went speeding off down the street, leaving me with my mouth gaping open and a multitude of unanswered questions. Like a typical teenager in a time of crisis, I deemed the event Facebook status worthy and vented to all of my friends. I was greatly surprised by many of their comments. They told me about many other people they know that had also been hit by a car recently in the area, and how the driver had quickly fled the scene.
With a bit of research, I discovered that tens of thousands of people are hit by a car each year in Washington, especially in Seattle, Bellevue, and Tacoma. 4,360 accidents in 2009 were hit-and-run accidents and King County had seven times more hit-and-run accidents than any other area. I also found that most hit-and-run accidents happen on a Friday and 5:00 pm is the most common time in Washington.
While the most likely explanation for fleeing drivers is fear of criminal liability, we cannot be certain because many are never found and properly questioned. Still, if pedestrians are aware of the facts they can take extra precaution to prevent hit-and-run accidents. Always keep in mind the dangers and be extra careful on Fridays at 5:00!
Vickie Zlatinova writes for Youth Connection.