A Delaware school bus driver has created quite the rap sheet for herself after fleeing the scene of an accident in early November. Kimberly Ogorek, after crashing the school bus she was driving into a utility pole, was charged with driving under the influence of prescription drugs, leaving the scene of an accident, failing to report an accident and failing to remain in a single lane. Ogorek, who continued to take the child passengers to school, after the collision, has also been charged with 30 counts of endangering the welfare of a child.
While this irresponsible school bus driver has left many parents worrying about the welfare of their own children, many drivers who leave the scene of a car accident are not always under the influence or fleeing to avoid being caught. Some drivers, believe it or not, flee the scene of the accident because they are confused and unsure of what to do. Regardless of the reason, fleeing the scene of an accident is a serious offense and can get the driver in more trouble than if he had stayed at the scene of the accident.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident
Leaving the scene of an accident (also known as “hit and run”) is classified as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on where you live and the severity of the accident will determine how and if you will be charged. In the state of South Carolina, for example, a driver who flees the scene of an accident may have driving privileges revoked or a license suspended.
If you have been involved in an accident, either a singular or multiple vehicle collision, you must ask yourself if it would be wise to leave the scene. If you are traveling down a road, alone, swerve and hit a sign or someone’s property it might be tempting to leave the scene, especially if you are okay or there is minimal damage to your car. Think again, you are still responsible for any damage done. Are you attempting to leave because you have something to hide, such as an illegal act such as drunk or drug driving? Drivers rarely flee the scene without being caught. You may “hit and run”, but eventually you will be caught and will face more criminal charges than initially.
STAY at the Scene of an Accident
Even if you are at fault or take full responsibility for an accident, it’s important that you stay at the scene of an accident until you are given permission, by an authority, to leave. If you are involved in an accident, it’s important to follow these steps in order to keep you out of trouble or facing additional criminal charges. (Note: some state rules/laws may vary, so you should familiarize yourself with proper procedures). According to the National Safety Council, here are some easy, basic steps to remember if you are involved in a vehicle accident:
- Stop your vehicle if it is clear, safe, and legal (check your state’s laws).
- Move your vehicle out of harm’s way if it’s legal; otherwise keep your vehicle in the exact position as it was at the time of the accident. Move it and you may be charged with tampering of evidence.
- Turn off your vehicle. If your car is severely damaged, it’s especially important to kill the engine if you are able, as it may reduce your risk of a car fire, explosions, or further serious injury.
- Make a first aid check of all persons involved in the crash, if you are physically able. Do not attempt administering first aid on others unless you are skilled. After you have done a quick assessment of the scene, call the police and then emergency medical services.
- Mark the scene of the crash with retro reflective triangles. Many drivers will not have these in their car; at the scene of an accident police officers will most likely mark the scene of the crash.
- Gather information of all persons involved in the accident including drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and witnesses.
- Make notes or diagrams of the crash, time, date, and weather conditions. This is important to do as soon as possible. Accuracy and important details fade or change over time.
- Exchange insurance information with the other drivers involved, but do not make any statements regarding “fault”. Leave that sort of conversation for police officers or accident lawyers.
- Most importantly, don’t engage in illegal behaviors while driving. If alcohol, drugs, or other suspicious materials are found at the scene of the crash, you are likely to face numerous criminal charges.
While a car accident is a scary experience, leaving many drivers worried about the repercussions of their involvement, it is never wise to leave the scene of an accident. A fleeing driver is a red flag for all people involved in investigating the crime scene. Don’t lose your driving privileges or build up your criminal record. Face the consequences, stay at the scene.