Hit & run crashes on the rise in Palm Beach County

PALM BEACH COUNTY, FL (WFLX) - There are new and startling statistics from Florida Highway Patrol about hit-and-run crashes. The number of these crashes is increasing in Palm Beach County and elsewhere.

A look at the FHP from 2012 show that there were nearly 70,000 hit-and-run crashes statewide. In Palm Beach County, there were more than 3,300 last year. Many of those crashes involved fatalities.

"I didn't know why. I didn't know how I got hit," said James Miller, a victim of a hit-and-run driver just three weeks ago. "He went by real close and just took me right out."

Miller was cycling with friends on A1A in Gulfstream, when, he says, a black SUV pulling a black trailer hit him. The driver of that vehicle kept going. "People are selfish," he said. "They think about themselves and not other people."

FHP reports that many people just 'keep going'. In 2012, FHP reported 3,381 hit-and-run crashes in Palm Beach County and a total of nearly 70,000 across Florida. Those crashes include anything from a fender bender in a parking lot to something much more serious.

Miller broke his collar bone, suffered cuts and bruising and even had to have a flesh wound on his knee stapled closed. After a few days in a wheelchair and in the hospital, Miller was on his road to recovery. "I'm lucky, I survived," he said. "I'm still alive but it could have been different."

It was a different outcome for Paula Vinsky, 47, who was struck by a vehicle while walking on a Loxahatchee street on February 13. Vinsky died at the scene. The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office says that the driver, believed to be in a Jeep Liberty, drove away from the scene.

Miller says there were too many hit-and-run crashes in 2012 and already too many this year. "They act differently behind the wheel than they would if they were just face to face with somebody in person," he said.

Florida law says that driver that collides with someone or something must stay at the scene and render aid to anyone who needs it. Those who fail to do that and get caught, could spend years and jail and pay thousands of dollars in fines.

Copyright 2013 WFLX. All Rights Reserved.