Crimes with a Vehicle
Hit and Run Traffic Collisions
Being involved in an automobile traffic collision is a stressful situation. However, when the other party fails to stop which results in a hit and run collision, a person’s anxiety of the incident can be greatly magnified. The result of hit and runs range from property damage to bodily injury to death.
Some of the most common reasons drivers fail to stop after being involved in a collision are fear, lack of automobile insurance, and driving-under-the-influence (DUI). No matter what the reason, failing to stop after being involved in an automobile collision is a crime. The following California Vehicle Code (CVC) laws apply to hit and run traffic collisions:
- Section 20001 CVC - Duty to Stop at Scene of Accident
The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to any person, other than himself or herself, or in the death of any person shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident and shall fulfill the requirements of Sections 20003 and 20004.
- Section 20002 CVC - Permissible Action: Duty Where Property Damaged
(a) The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting only in damage to any property, including vehicles, may move the vehicle, if possible, off the main lanes of the highway to a safe location within the immediate vicinity of the accident unless that action would create a traffic hazard or cause an injury to any person. Moving the vehicle in accordance with this subdivision does not affect the question of fault.
- Section 20003 CVC - Duty Upon Injury or Death
The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to or death of any person shall also give his or her name, current residence address, the names and current residence addresses of any occupant of the driver's vehicle injured in the accident, the registration number of the vehicle he or she is driving, and the name and current residence address of the owner to the person struck or the driver or occupants of any vehicle collided with, and shall give the information to any traffic or police officer at the scene of the accident.
- The driver also shall render to any person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, including transporting, or making arrangements for transporting, any injured person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent that treatment is necessary or if that transportation is requested by any injured person.
- Section 20004 CVC - Duty Upon Death
In the event of death of any person resulting from an accident, the driver of any vehicle involved after fulfilling the requirements of this division, and if there is no traffic or police officer at the scene of the accident to whom to give the information required by Section 20003, shall, without delay, report the accident to the nearest office of the Department of the California Highway Patrol or office of a duly authorized police authority and submit with the report the information required by Section 20003.
Staged Traffic Collisions
If you have ever been involved in a traffic collision, even as a passenger, you know how stressful the experience can be. Imagine how much more stress you might feel if you found out that the accident you were in was actually "set up or staged," placing you as the party at fault. Staged collisions are criminal conspiracies that usually involve numerous suspects. The victims are the drivers of other vehicles who have been intentionally targeted by the suspect(s) who commit these acts strictly for financial gain. The two most common techniques reportedly used in staged collisions are known as the "Swoop and Squat" and the "Drive Down," also known as the "Wave On."
The Swoop and Squat involves two suspects, each driving a separate vehicle. Generally, these suspects target a late model vehicle occupied by a single victim, so the victim has no witnesses to the collision. The squat vehicle, usually containing two suspects, positions itself in front of the victim’s vehicle, slowing to close the gap between the vehicles. The swoop vehicle then changes lanes in front of the squat vehicle and stops suddenly, forcing the squat vehicle to stop, and subsequently for the victim to rear end the squat vehicle. The swoop vehicle then leaves the scene. The suspects in the squat vehicle will frequently indicate that an unknown vehicle "came out of nowhere" and stopped, forcing them to brake.
The suspect(s) stage a collision at an intersection or parking lot entrance after yielding the right-of-way to the victim by waving them ahead. As the victim proceeds through the intersection, the suspect purposely accelerates and collides with the victim’s vehicle. As with the Swoop and Squat technique, the suspects generally target a victim who is alone in their vehicle.
Here are some tips on protecting yourself from becoming the victim of a staged collision:
- Be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention to the vehicles around you, including those beyond the vehicle in front of you. Allow plenty of room between your vehicle and other vehicles.
- Do not drive when you are tired or stressed. Diminished concentration on the road can lead to carelessness, which will make you more vulnerable. Refrain from using a cell phone, map, or anything else that will distract you from the road while you are driving.
- Carry a disposable camera in your vehicle. If you are involved in a traffic collision, whether you believe it was staged or not, take pictures of the damage to each vehicle, the license plate of the vehicles involved, and the driver and passengers.
- If you become involved in a traffic collision on a busy street or highway, remove your vehicle from traffic lanes, if possible. Advise the other motorists of your intentions, so they do not think you are attempting to flee the scene. Once you are safely removed from the roadway, exchange information with the other motorists involved. Try to obtain statements from potential independent witnesses, and write down their names, addresses and telephone numbers.
- If you suspect you are the victim of a staged collision, immediately contact the local law enforcement agency.
Section 10904 CVC - Automobile Insurance Fraud: Public Education Campaign
The State Insurance Commissioner has developed a public education campaign to deter participation in auto insurance fraud and to encourage the reporting of fraudulent claims. The education campaign includes:
- Phony injury claims, where criminals lie about the harm they or others have sustained in an accident.
- Inflated damage claims, in which criminals falsify the extent of damage or the true cost of repairs to their vehicles. Example: an insurance cheat adds previous damage to a legitimate claim, or conspires with a body shop and/or claims adjuster to pad a repair estimate.
- Phony thefts, where the owner simply abandons a vehicle and then claims it was stolen (known as an "owner give-up").
- Staged accidents, such as the intentional rear-end collision (known as a "swoop and squat").
- Falsely claiming a one-car accident was a "hit and run."
- Inventing injuries to people who were not even in the vehicle at the time of the accident (known as "jump-ins").
Do not allow yourself to be lured into committing the crime of insurance fraud. Do not treat an auto accident as a moneymaking opportunity or a chance to be reimbursed for your deductible or all the premiums you’ve paid over the years. If you have a legitimate claim, call your insurance agent and make sure you get everything you’re entitled to under your policy. Check all bills, invoices and estimates associated with your claim to make certain they are accurate. The last thing you want is to become someone else’s unwitting accomplice in committing a felony violation. Do not let anyone talk you into aiding and abetting insurance fraud, either. Remember, even if the claim is denied, lying about it is still a crime and so is helping someone else lie about it. Finally, if you know someone who is committing insurance fraud, report it. Remember, the money these criminals get comes out of your insurance rates.
What should a person do if involved in a traffic collision?
A person should first ensure that no one is injured. If no one is injured, all parties (drivers) should exchange information: driver’s license numbers (if in possession, or known), vehicle license numbers, names, addresses, and phone numbers of all drivers (passengers if possible), and the names of the insurance companies with policy numbers of the drivers involved. The involved persons should also write down the location where the traffic collision occurred (utilizing cross streets names or addresses and street names), and the time it occurred.
- What are the reporting requirements when involved in a traffic collision?
- RCPD will investigate and take a Traffic Collision Report if: a person involved in the traffic collision has been injured (complaining of pain is considered injury) or dies; one of the drivers is under the influence of alcohol or drugs; one of the drivers has fled the location without stopping to exchange information or check on the welfare of the other parties involved; or City property is involved (City vehicle, light post, signal light, etc.).
- How can a person make a traffic collision report?
- When a traffic collision occurs within the City of Rancho Cordova, it is RCPD’s policy to complete a traffic collision report when one of the following elements exists: a person involved in the traffic collision has been injured (complaint of pain is considered injury) or dies; one of the drivers is under the influence of alcohol or drugs; one of the drivers has fled the location without stopping to exchange information or check on the welfare of the other parties involved; City property is involved (City vehicle, light post, signal post, etc.).
- How can a person obtain a copy of a traffic collision report?
To obtain a copy of traffic Collision Reports, you must mail your request to Records & Identification Division. Traffic reports can be released to authorized persons such as the victim, the victim’s representative, or as provided in Section 20012 CVC.
Officer and Community Responsibilities
It is the responsibility of each and every uniformed officer to enforce violations of the California Vehicle Code, educate citizens on the importance of traffic safety, and make every effort to reduce crimes with a vehicle on City streets. These efforts, combined with the active participation of community members following the rules of the roads, will help ensure the safety of motorists and pedestrians throughout the City.