Florida may be the Sunshine State, but its residents seem to be in the dark when it comes to handling driving accidents.
Hit-and-runs in Florida grew for the second year running in 2016, totaling 99,002 incidents all together. That figure is up from the 92,623 hit-and-run cases reported in 2015, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV).
And in many of last year’s cases, drivers weren’t just fleeing an accident—they were dodging responsibility for a fatal crash. There were 179 casualties as the result of a hit-and-run accident in Florida last year alone, according to the DHSMV numbers. Such an incident is a first-degree felony, leading to a $10,000 fine and up to 30 years in prison.
All told, 15,851 of the cases resulted in charges. Among those facing sentences for their crime—a felony in Florida, typically punishable by three years of a revoked license and a minimum of four years in prison—70 percent were male, and nearly two-thirds were between the ages of 18 and 28.
The escalating problem became such an issue that the DHSMV, along with a slew of other state agencies, had February declared Hit and Run Awareness Month in the state.
Campaigns held by different public safety offices throughout Florida included driving safety tips, information on how to deal with and report a hit-and-run incident and personal stories from victims of the incidents—as well as those who had to speak on behalf of a loved one lost in a hit-and-run crash.
A twin campaign, called Stay at the Scene, was also rolled out by the DHSMV last month, intended to encourage motorists to stay put after an incident. Doing so will rarely result in a penalty, the state agency said.
Still, accidents will happen—and many will continue trying to evade the responsibility of their actions. The Florida Highway Patrol has asked the public to report any hit-and-run crashes to the agency directly by dialing *347.