November 30, 2014

"The chance of being convicted is so slim that 'if you wanted to murder someone, it would almost be better to just hit them with your car'..."

"... said Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles), who has pushed for stiffer hit-and-run penalties."

From an article in the L.A. Times titled "Hit-and-runs take a rising toll on cyclists."
Hit-and-run collisions involving bicyclists surged 42% from 2002 to 2012 in Los Angeles County, according to a Times analysis of California Highway Patrol crash data.

The increase came as the overall number of hit-and-runs involving cars, cyclists and pedestrians dropped by 30%. Between 2002 and 2012, the most recent data available, more than 5,600 cyclists were injured and at least 36 died in crashes in which drivers fled the scene....

The Los Angeles Police Department closed one in five hit-and-runs from 2008 to 2012, meaning about 80% were unresolved, according to data the department reported last year to the Board of Police Commissioners. Less than half of those cases were closed through an arrest.

22 comments:

Bob R said...

Can someone explain the logic behind increasing the penalties for a crime because the conviction rate is so low?

Also, you might think an editor would require someone to get some statistic on bicycle usage to compare to the graphs on accident rates, but I guess not at the LA Times.

Ann Althouse said...

I think what Gatto is (or should be) arguing for is a big difference between the penalty for accidentally hitting someone and staying at the scene and the penalty for accidentally hitting someone and leaving the scene.

They're doing such a bad job of catching those who leave the scene that there's an incentive to hit and run... so there needs to be a huge penalty for leaving the scene. Isn't that logical?

Bob R said...

But, according to the article, there is already a huge difference. I suppose if you make it big enough - say life imprisonment - your calculation makes sense. But he's talking about a marginal difference.

Laslo Spatula said...

Isn't the bill from the auto body-shop penalty enough?

I am Laslo.

Oso Negro said...

I suppose the California cyclists are so enlightened you just can't see them.

Bob R said...

And the judge in the article didn't enforce the penalties that were currently available. It's an enforcement and judicial problem. Unlikely that legislation will make it better.

whitney said...

The bicycle gangs are so annoyingly entitled that people are going to start hitting them on purpose when this news gets out. They all have a "share the road" bumper sticker on their cars but what they really mean is "give us the road". They are the worst

Gahrie said...

I'm willing to bet that a significant number of those committing the hit and runs are undocumented immigrants.

JAORE said...

Here is part of the problem. And a symbol of a larger one: "After two days behind bars, inmate records show, Chin was released from jail under a county policy that allows immediate release for women sentenced to less than 240 days."

I presume the judge knew of this policy and, effectively sentenced her to almost zero time.

Laslo Spatula said...

I had a bicyclist stuck to the grill of my car for three days. First it was "Oh God I'm hurt" this and "The pain is unbearable" that, but if I played the radio loud enough it wasn't that much of a nuisance. Don't get me wrong: I tried driving over speed-bumps to dislodge him, but it was obvious he wasn't planning on leaving; after three days he was inviting friends to visit him in my garage.

I am Laslo.

Anonymous said...

Activism is usually a virtue unto itself here in Seattle. Here's what I've seen just this year:

1. A guy hauling his toddler in a little tent-box behind his bike in rush-hour traffic on a local busy arterial...day after day. Cars whizzing past him at 35 mph, people changing lanes...pulling out of gas stations...while his child is in a nylon box 2 ft off the ground behind him, barely visible. He lasted about a week and then I didn't see him again.

2. The Critical Mass bike protest where they 'take back' the streets, clog traffic and fight the system, man.

3. A rather butch-looking lady who apparently thought I had left my bumper too far into the crosswalk at a quiet stoplight with just me and her there.

Rather surprisingly, she patted her hand on the hood and wheeled-up to my window and started 'informing' me about leaving space for bikes like her, when I was admittedly two feet or so into the crosswalk.

Clearly, this was a teachable moment and time for a stop and chat. She was a just a 'concerned bicyclist.'

John Lynch said...

Old Line: Bicycling is very safe

New Line: Hit and Runs are getting worse

glenn said...

Gabriel hit the nail on the head. Even if it is racist to say what he said.

CWJ said...

Gahrie may have hit part of it. Only half jokingly I ask, what else has surged 42% between 2002 and 2012. But when it comes to ht and run, outstanding warrants and no unsurance also play their role.

Michael K said...

I don't see many bicycles, probably because of where I live. There are lots of bike paths and lanes in Orange County.

What is a problem is motorcycles on the freeway. They are everywhere, threading lanes at rush hour and speeding through stopped traffic at 50 mph or so. I was rear ended June 2013 when I was going about 5 mph and the motorcycle must have been doing 50. The impact blew all the windows out of my car and caved in the rear door of my SUV. It was amazing the guy was not hurt worse.

Every day I am on the freeway (Three days a week) I hear of another motorcycle down somewhere. I am not surprised when I see how aggressive they are.

T J Sawyer said...

If I drive on the highway, I must be protected by "restraints," padded dash and any number of other safety devices. Shouldn't cyclists be similarly protected or be prevented from being on the road?

jeff said...

"They're doing such a bad job of catching those who leave the scene that there's an incentive to hit and run... so there needs to be a huge penalty for leaving the scene. Isn't that logical?"
It would be if they were catching people who were leaving the scene. It appears you have a 90% chance to not even be charged if you flee a accident. I would guess that most of the people who WOULDN'T risk it on those odds are the people who don't flee in the first place. So no. Logic fail.

heyboom said...

I'm willing to bet that a significant number of those committing the hit and runs are undocumented immigrants.

Ding ding ding! Gahrie for the win!

The number one reason for the high rate of hit-an-runs in SoCal is illegals who don't have valid licenses, registration or insurance.

Balfegor said...

Re: Bob R:

Can someone explain the logic behind increasing the penalties for a crime because the conviction rate is so low?

Why, pour encourager les autres of course! It's the foundation of our criminal justice system. Put in other terms, the point is to alter the expected value of the costs of taking a particular action.

If right now the penalty has a cost of 50, and but only 5% of perpetrators are actually caught and punished, the expected value of the cost of killing a cyclist is 5% x 50 = 2.5 -- at that price, there are plenty of people who would be happy to murder a cyclist or two.

On the other hand, if you double that "cost" of that penalty to 100, then even if your conviction rate remains low, the expected value is 5% x 100 = 5. And if you quadruple it, it would be 5% x 200 = 10.

At an EV of 10, there are perhaps people whom you would deter (or perhaps, whom you would induce to be more cautious about potentially killing cyclists), whom you would not have detered at 2.5.

That's a little too pat, though, as the deterrent effect isn't just linear with the expected value. After all, a punishment that is greatly out of proportion with the gravity of a crime will be more likely to make the news and more likely to shock the population, making them take note -- the more grotesquely disproportionate the better. If the objective is to educate the public about the risks of killing cyclists, then you can make an example of a couple of drivers, and hope thereby to spread the terror of the law amongst the remaining population.

CWJ said...

Balfegor, Althouse, and perhaps one or two others take the aproach to which I would have agreed in my logical days. But once mugged by reality, I realized that that doesn't wash. To take Balfegor's proposed percentage, all the hit and run offender thinks of is 5%. You could change the penalty to death and all they will thnk of is 5%.

First, worrying about the penalty is a contingency based upon not only being apprehended but also being successfully prosecuted. Seriously, who thinks that far ahead in the hot monent of having hit a cyclist. Secondly, as I and heyboom have noted, some nontrivial subset of hit and run perpetrators will have other issues that they know will come to light if they stay to take responsibility for their actions. So sorry Althouse, sorry Balfegor. Change the penalty to whatever you want, ijt will have no effect as long as apprehensuion is so low.

DanTheMan said...

IMHO, you are thinking about this backwards. It’s not about likelihood of getting caught, it about the certainty of getting arrested if you stay.
From experience, the vast majority of those who flee have no or a revoked/suspended license, are drunk, or have warrants.
In these cases, if you stay the likelihood of jail is 100%. No math required.

Kirk Parker said...

Mike K,

"What is a problem is motorcycles on the freeway. They are everywhere, threading lanes at rush hour and speeding through stopped traffic at 50 mph or so."

Whatever you do, don't visit Nairobi or Bangkok!