Hit and run accidents are a concern for TJC students

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In the past year, the Tyler Police Department received 777 hit and run accident reports. In 2008, the numbers were even higher, with 844 hit and run accidents reported in Tyler alone. “Many people leave the crime scene without thinking of the consequences of their actions,” said Don Martin, the public information Officer of Tyler Police Department. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety the chances of being involved in an automobile accident are higher for people under 24. Tyler Junior College received 40 reports of parked cars damaged between August and December 2009. “People ‘hit and run’ because they think it’s the easiest way out. Especially if they do not have car insurance, without knowing they can go to jail for it,” said Victor Melchor, State Farm Agent. In October of 2009, Jessica Reyes’ 2000 silver Camaro was hit by another car while she was in class. The other driver fled the scene.”I did not realize the big dent on my car’s right back side until I stopped to get gas on my way back home to Jacksonville,” said Reyes. Reyes reported the incident the next day. “I understand it was an accident; but, I don’t understand why people leave without giving an explanation when it was not even expensive to fix,” Reyes said.Last semester, TJC student Ricky Jackson’s car was hit by a woman who identified herself as Britney. The suspect fled the scene after she got out of the car just to look at the damage on her car. He reported the incident later.”An accident could happen to anyone; but, if you leave without leaving the proper information to the people affected, the consequences are going to be bad,” said Martin. People do not understand that reporting an accident can even be cheaper than leaving and pretending nothing happened. According to Tyler Police Department, a hit and run suspect can be charged with a fine sometimes double the damage or time in jail with felony charges.”Sometimes the insurance pays for all the damages with only the police report. It’s that simple,” said Melchor. According to statefarminsurance.com, when drivers do not fulfill their duties after an accident, they can receive a traffic ticket at a minimum. “Many drivers should be cautious because 40 percent of young drivers do not have insurance especially when they have to pay tuition, books, and supplies,” said Melchor.According to car-accident.com the costs of car accidents during 2006 was around $26 billion dollars in the United States. “Males under age 25 are more likely to be involved in car accidents. For this reason the car insurance premiums are higher for individuals with these characteristics,” said Melchor.Drivers under 24 years of age are responsible for 30 percent of the total costs. “People should know the right thing to do if they hit a parked or unattended vehicle,” said Martin.When vehicle accidents occur, Texas law requires the driver involved in the accident to follow a specific procedure immediately after the incident. This involves damage to property, injuries to others, or death. Texas traffic law requires any driver to stop after the accident and exchange contact information including identification, plate number, and any other information that helps to contact any other driver involved in the incident. When a stationary vehicle or property is damaged, it is the responsibility of the driver causing the damage to do anything necessary to identify the damaged property owner.”When an accident occurs on college property, the Campus Police Department needs information to start an investigation; however, in situations involving ‘hit and run’ accidents they use other alternatives to proceed just like the Tyler Police Department does,” said Martin. The Tyler Police Department Web site recommends reporting the accident to the local authorities immediately after the accident so they can find witnesses while the accident is recent. The Tyler Junior College Police Department uses many avenues to fight crime including hit and run accidents. Cameras around campus help police officers solve some of the crimes. “Officers did check the cameras’ recordings to find evidence about my case,” said Reyes.”Students’ cooperation is vital to solve crimes on campus. A witness with good information, like plate number or vehicle description, can be enough to solve a “hit and run” accident,” said Martin. As Martin advises, it is always better to do the right thing and report every vehicle accident even if there are not visible consequences. For more information, contact the Tyler Junior College Campus Safety Department at 903-510-2258 or to become a witness call Tyler-Smith County Crimestoppers 903-597-2833.

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