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AAA: hit-and-run crash deaths reach all-time high in 2016

LANCASTER, P.A. --- An AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study found a new record that takes a turn for the worse.

2,049 died in the U.S. in a hit-and-run related crash in 2016, which is the highest number on record.

Doni Lee Spiegel with AAA Central Penn said the number represents a a 60 percent increase since 2009.

"Hit-and-run crashes have been going up over seven percent, on average, for the past ten years," said Spiegel.

In 2016, 50 people were killed in a hit-and-run crash in Pennsylvania, the highest since 2012 (49).

Sgt. Michael Piacentino with the Manheim Township Police Department said a myriad of factors could play into hit-and-run crashes, from inexperienced drivers to drivers avoiding law enforcement.

However, he said understanding why someone flees, literally, escapes them.

"The true answer to the question can't be answered because the person that would properly answer that question isn't available," said Sgt. Piacentino.

He also said when they can't find someone responsible for the crash, the victim is liable for any damage or medical expenses through their own insurance or out-of-pocket.

The AAA study found nearly 65 percent of the people killed in hit-and-run crashes were pedestrians or bicyclists.

Dave Stauffer, president of the Lancaster Bicycle Club, which is home to 400 cyclists, said hit-and-run safety is "always a concern" for them as cyclists.

He asid training is a key part of their group, such as getting cyclists comfortable around vehicles and geared with the right equipment.

"A lot of lights, even in the daytime. Front lights, rear lights, high visibility like [reflecting] jacket or white is a good color," said Stauffer.

Pennsylvania law requires vehicles to give cyclists four feet of space when passing.

Even with that, Stauffer said bicyclists need to know what they're doing to avoid potential problems.

"You get out on a ride, you get a flat tire and you don't have the equipment to change a tire or you don't know how to change a tire...Then how do you get back? You end up pushing your bike," said Stauffer.

Authorities also stress the minute someone drives away from a crash, it's considered a crime, even if it's a scratch.