Hit-and-run crimes escalating across state
FOREST CITY — Hit-and-run traffic collisions with injuries or deaths are currently escalating annually across North Carolina and the nation at an alarming rate, according to AAA Carolinas, an affiliate of the American Automobile Association.
In Charlotte, North Carolina's largest city, a hit-and-run crash with an injury or death occurred every day on average last year and is currently 5.4 percent higher this year.
Statewide, there are nearly five hit-and-run incidents every day on average in which someone is injured or killed and the driver flees the scene. Last year, there was a 5.7 percent increase in personal injury hit-and-run crashes (1,663 statewide).
Meanwhile, traffic accidents last year statewide increased only 3.2 percent.
"This has been buried beneath the public's radar," said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas, in a statement. "But hit-and-run property damage, injuries or deaths represented nearly one of every four reported accidents in Charlotte last year. This is a painful traffic safety epidemic."
While harsh weather in the first quarter of 2014 reduced traffic and hit-and-run collisions statewide compared to 2013, both traffic volume and hit-and-runs are expected to climb as the weather warms and summer driving begins.
"Drivers feel they have nothing to lose by driving off," Parsons said. "The drive-off penalty has to be so harsh that fleeing isn't a desirable option."
If a person kills someone while driving a car, drives off without stopping and is convicted of the offense of hit-and-run causing serious injury and death, the time the driver could spend in prison is up to 41-62 months. Often such cases result in additional charges with more prison time.
With no criminal record, a hit-and-run conviction would make the driver eligible for probation under North Carolina's new 2011 structured sentencing law.
"This is a legislative and judicial tragedy," Parsons said. "The law needs to be strengthened. The penalties should be very stiff for any driver whose vehicle strikes someone, kills or injures them and the driver flees the scene."
Leave fawns, young wildlife alone
FOREST CITY — The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is reminding people to leave young wildlife alone.
Human encounters with young animals often increase in the spring, when many species bear young. Handling, feeding or moving an animal can harm or ultimately kill the animal and poses a risk for human health and safety.
Also, it is illegal to keep native wildlife as a pet in North Carolina.
"Well-meaning people can do tremendous harm," said Ann May, Wildlife Resources Commission extension wildlife biologist, in a statement. "No matter how cute, how cuddly or lost or scared it (an animal) may appear, the best thing to do is avoid any human interaction."
Many species, such as white-tailed deer, do not constantly stay with their young and only return to feed them. So while a fawn might look abandoned and alone, it is often just waiting for the mother to return. A fawn is well-equipped to protect itself and within a few weeks of birth is capable of escaping most predators.
"Spotted and lacking scent, fawns are well camouflaged and usually remain undetected by predators," May said. "The doe will return to the fawn several times a day to nurse and clean it, staying only a few minutes each time before leaving again to seek food. Taking a fawn from the wild will do more harm than good."
For other species, the parent may return and become aggressive in an attempt to defend its young.
Furthermore, feeding animals may seem harmless or even helpful, however, it causes the animal to lose its natural fear of humans and seek more human food. An animal may become aggressive or cause property damage in its search for human food.
Wildlife also can transmit diseases to humans, including rabies and roundworm.
In those instances where a young animal is actually orphaned, contact the Wildlife Resources Commission at 919-707-0050 or visit http://www.ncwildlife.org/InjuredWildlife.aspx for contact information of a local, authorized rehabilitator.
Did you know?
North Carolina scanner code 10-54 refers to an incident of hit-and-run. Following a 10-54 can be PD (property damage), PI (personal injury) or F (fatal injury).