Jessica Santiago of West Palm Beach, Florida was arrested on May 5 for allegedly crashing into a motorcyclist and failing to remain at the scene of the accident.
Santiago, 25, is being charged with leaving the scene of a crash causing serious bodily harm. It is unclear if she has hired an attorney.
According to the probable cause affidavit, the alleged incident took place in Palm Springs on the weekend of Cinco de Mayo. A Honda CR-V was preparing to turn onto Melaleuca Road from Congress Avenue when it struck a motorcyclist. The driver of the Honda did not stop to administer aid and fled the scene of the accident, according to witnesses.
“[The witness] saw the driver’s face as she drove past him on Melaleuca Road,” an officer wrote in the affidavit.
One of the witnesses followed the Honda and called 911. When police caught up with the driver—who was identified as Santiago—and questioned her about the crash, she reportedly said that she didn’t see the motorcyclist.
“She did not stop because there were several vehicles behind her,” Santiago told investigators, according to the affidavit. “She went to turn around and got lost because she is not from the area.”
The motorcyclist was identified as Bilhan Kiris of West Palm Beach. He was taken to a hospital with a serious head injury.
Florida has one of the highest incidents of hit-and-run crashes in the country. A recent study published by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety listed Florida among the top three states with the highest number of deadly hit-and-run crashes. Louisiana and New Mexico were listed as the other two states.
The study, which examined hit-and-run crashes in the U.S. from 2006 to 2016, found that 2016 was the year with a highest number of fatal hit-and-runs with 2,049 deaths—a 60% increase since 2009. The number of hit-and-run fatalities have increased on average 7.2% every year since 2009, the study revealed.
“Hit-and-run crashes in the United States are trending in the wrong direction,” David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, told the press. “Our analysis shows that hit-and-run crashes are a growing traffic safety challenge and the AAA Foundation would like to work with all stakeholders to help curtail this problem.”
Florida had 1,814 hit-and run crashes that involved at least one fatality from 2006 to 2016. Over 200 hit-and-run crashes that involved at least one death were reported in 2016 alone. 65% of the people killed in hit-and-runs across the U.S. were pedestrians or cyclists.
It is illegal in every state for a driver involved in an accident to leave the scene. The penalties for leaving the scene vary depending on the severity of the crash.
“It is every driver’s legal and moral responsibility to take necessary precautions to avoid hitting a pedestrian, bicyclist or another vehicle,” said Jennifer Ryan, director of state relations for AAA “While no one likes being involved in a crash, leaving the scene will significantly increase the penalties for drivers whether they caused the crash or not.”
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