Pedestrians and Hit-and-Run: Grim Statistics and “Ghosts”

A gruesomely consistent 20% of pedestrian deaths are caused by hit-and-run drivers, and the corner of Virginia and Chico was the scene last Friday of Burque’s latest such injury leading to death. What led a couple in a black SUV to deliberately run Richard Sisneros over and drag him 200 feet is presently unclear. APD has screenshots of the alleged murder weapon and those with information can call 242-COPS.

Unfortunately, such information often never arrives in enough detail to lead to arrests. The problem, of course, goes beyond Albuquerque. An excellent 2014 piece by Joey Bunch in the Denver Post examines in detail the pedestrian injury/death epidemic along the Front Range and the difficulty in catching offenders. This 2013 NPR piece similarly captures both the epidemic and frustration in Car Heaven, Los Angeles.

Among many implemented solutions, jurisdictions have tried to address the problem via heightened penalties for hit-and-run, but this doesn’t seem to be having an effect. Legal efforts might also be indirectly making arrests more difficult, a point raised in a 2015 study looking at whether stricter BAC laws might be leading to more offenders fleeing crash scenes. Researchers Michael T. French and Gulcin Gumus studied drunk driving laws in states around the country along with crash data and conclude:

We present compelling evidence that stricter DUI penalties may unintentionally increase hit-and-run incidents. Specifically, we find that during our period of analysis, the 0.08 BAC limit has increased hit-and-run traffic fatalities by 13-16 percent and hit-and-run pedestrian fatalities by about 8 percent, while this law had no significant effect on non-hit-and-run fatalities. The impact of BAC laws on hit-and-run fatalities persists even after controlling for alcohol consumption per capita.

All of which might have had absolutely nothing to do with what happened to Richard Sisneros at the corner of Virginia and Chico last Friday. One common strain to pedestrian injury/death stories is that they tend to have complexities not found in unfortunately common cases of a guy running a red light and T-boning another car. The Denver Post story linked above outlines some of these complexities, as does another excellent 2014 piece from Colorado, this one by Burt Hubbard at Rocky Mountain PBS. Along with personal stories of the aftermath hit-and-run has had on victims and families, the piece includes the following:

“It’s a tremendously huge problem,” said Larry Stevenson, former Denver police officer and founder of the Medina Alerts to enlist the public to help police catch hit and run drivers.

“When a hit-and-run occurs, law enforcement is looking for a ghost,” he said.

The Denver Post story mentions that Denver police solve about 80% of hit-and-run cases, which is about the national average. Figures for Albuquerque and APD would be nice to get. Also nice, albeit grim in details, would be a graphic similar to the one below, with unsolved hit-and-run cases here.


It would also be interesting to study whether the great news gathering and reporting done in Denver in 2014 has had an effect on any aspect of the pedestrian/hit-and-run epidemic there since. I’d like to think so and perhaps naively feel heightened reporting on the issue here in Burque would also help. Given the spike in pedestrian injuries/deaths not just here but nationwide, any additional awareness of the problem seems in order.


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