Psychology behind a hit and run crash

Recent incidents raise questions

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - There has been an alarming number of serious - even deadly - hit and run crashes in South Florida in recent days. The incidents raise the question - what kind of a person chooses to flee a crash scene; especially when someone is hurt?

When a driver collides with something - or worse - someone, that moment of impact is also a moment of truth.

"The mind is very powerful," said Dr. Kristin Tolbert, a clinical and forensic psychologist based in Palm Beach Gardens.

Dr. Tolbert says years of research has split hit & run drivers into two basic categories. The first, she says, is drivers who find themselves in utter shock and choose to leave the scene of a crash before they can even rationalize what happened.

"The most logical, well intended person may do something that they did not think that they would ever by capable of doing," she said.

Then, Tolbert says, there are drivers who may already doing something unlawful - under the influence of alcohol or drugs, for instance. In a split second, they choose to try to protect their own future instead trying to stop and help someone.

"There are some people that do lack empathy and that and do have an interest in what affects them only," said Tolbert.

Those drivers lack good moral judgement, says James Miller, who was bicycling in Gulfstream earlier this year when he was hit by an SUV that never stopped.

"Did you get somebody who is going to be responsible and have the character to do the right thing?," asked Miller. "Or did you get hit by somebody who has obvious character flaws and is just going to try and get away with it?" The driver that hit Miller was never found.

In just the last two weeks, there have been serious hit and run crashes in Palm Beach and Broward counties as well as on the Treasure Coast.

"There are no consequences other than what they're own consequences may provide them," said Miller.

In 2012, Florida Highway Patrol reported nearly 70,000 hit and run crashes across the state. Florida law states that a driver who collides with someone or something must stay at the scene and render aid to anyone who needs it.


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