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Does panic cause hit-and-run accidents?

You're probably a bit astounded every time you hear about a hit-and-run accident. You'd never consider leaving the scene of a crash. First off, you know it's illegal. Plus, in today's world of cell phone videos and surveillance cameras, tracking people down after the fact is easier than ever.

What could people possible be thinking? Experts have one potential explanation: They're not. They're panicking. It overrides their typical thought process and they act irrationally, even if they're obviously making a mistake and would never condone it in any other setting.

One psychologist pointed to a hit-and-run accident that took the life of a homeless man. A woman who had been drinking and using drugs hit him with her car hard enough that he broke through the windshield and got stuck. Without calling the police, she drove home with him still in the window, hid her car in the garage, and waited for him to die.

It sounds crazy, but the psychologist says it shows how panic can rise as a situation gets worse, compounding on itself.

The woman's panic was first set off by the unexpected event of being in an accident. That was compounded by her impairment, which made her want to drive off to avoid DUI charges.

Once she did, she realized she'd be facing charges for running from the scene and hitting the man. That led her to hide the car and neglect to call the authorities. All of that led to the man's death in her garage. Things gradually worked their way up and, in her panicked state, she didn't stop it until she was looking at 50 years in jail.

While most people will not be victimized to this degree, these factors do help cause hit-and-run accidents on a consistent basis. Those who are injured need to know their legal rights.

Source: Psychology Today, "Panic-Induced Foolishness," Stephen Greenspan Ph.D., accessed Nov. 02, 2017

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