A new law signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom will help make it easier for police to track down hit-and-run drivers. Next January it will create a Yellow Alert system for fatal hit-and-run crashes, similar to an Amber Alert for abducted children. If police can get a complete or partial license plate number and description of the vehicle, it can be flashed on highway message signs and sent to news media, Stateline reports. At least two other states — Colorado and Maryland — use similar alert systems for hit-and-run crashes. “This is just a recurring tragedy. One of the difficulties is when they flee, often it takes a long time to locate the individual — or they never do,” said law author Assembly member Jim Patterson, who lost a friend who was the victim of a hit-and-run while bicycling.
Hit-and-run crash fatalities have been climbing in the U.S., jumping from 2,037 in 2019 to 2,564 in 2020, a twenty six percent increase, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Many of the victims aren't riding in cars and trucks. Twenty-four percent of all pedestrian fatalities in 2020 involved hit-and-run crashes, as did 22 percent of all bicyclist fatalities. "These are extremely difficult investigations,” said Ron Menchey, a Maryland State Police first sergeant. “We have collisions that we’d bet our paychecks that there were witnesses, but they don’t come forward. Sometimes, we come across a body on a roadway and no one stopped.”