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Hit-And-Run Crashes Involving Bicyclists In Los Angeles Have Risen Dramatically

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Even as the city of Los Angeles works on becoming friendlier to bicyclists, a study has found that hit-and-run crashes involving bicyclists have risen significantly, even as the overall number of hit-and-runs has decreased.An LA Times analysis of data from the California Highway Patrol found that between 2002 and 2012, the number of hit-and-run collisions involving bicyclists rose 42%, with over 5,600 injured and 36 killed. Alternately, the general number of hit-and-runs involving cars, bicycles, and pedestrians dropped 30% over the same period. Almost a fifth of these crashes happened in five neighborhoods: Long Beach, Santa Monica, downtown Los Angeles, Van Nuys and North Hollywood.

In October, the Governors Highway Safety Association found that California is the deadliest state for bikers.

To add insult to (sometimes devastating and even deadly) injury, it is also difficult to track down drivers that take off after a crash. In the same 2002-2012 timeframe, the Times also found that 80% of hit-and-run cases remain unresolved. Less than half of the remaining 20% are closed by the Los Angeles Police Department through an arrest.

"There are a lot of cases where we don't have a lot to go on," Sheriff's Department Sergeant Daniel Dail told the LA Times. Investigators usually deal with cases where the drivers rarely turn themselves in, and what little evidence there is the drivers can cover up with a few small repairs.

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Even collecting restitution can be difficult when hit-and-run drivers are caught. The Times report tells the story of Paul Livingston, a biker who was the victim of a hit-and-run in 2011 whose dilemma is a perfect microcosm of the situation.

Livingston was hit by a driver at the intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard and North Crescent Drive and suffered devastating injuries. He woke up six days after the crash after being put in a medically-induced coma. Although the driver of the car that hit him, Victoria Chin, turned herself in, the criminal trial dragged but finally resolved itself in May of this year when Chin pled no contest and ultimately only served two days in jail before being released.

"I was in a coma for longer than she was locked up," Livingston told the LA Times. Of the over $600,000 Chin was ordered to pay in restitution for his medical bills, Livingston has collected $24.42.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto, who represents Los Angeles, has pushed for stricter penalties for hit-and-run accidents, though he's had two bill vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown. "If you wanted to murder someone, it would almost be better to just hit them with your car," he said.

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