Skip to comments.Hit-and-run crashes on rise in (San Fernando)Valley; most stay mystery
Posted on 03/08/2006 9:30:05 AM PST by radar101
Somewhere out there is the woman whose beat-up sedan crashed into flesh and bone one night just before Christmas and then sped away, leaving Elias Geha to die on a Glendale street. "If I find the person, I would say: At least have some decency to stop by and say, 'I'm sorry, it was an accident,"' said John Balta, Geha's brother-in-law.
"If it was a mistake, that's fine. But how can someone live like that? How can they sleep at night? If you hit a dog, you feel so sorry for the dog. But this was a human being."
The driver, who police believe is a woman, and thousands of others have given California the dishonorable distinction of having the nation's highest rate of hit-and-run collisions, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
Last year, 8,325 hit-and-run collisions were reported on San Fernando Valley streets, a 2 percent increase from 2004. An additional 700 hit-and-run crashes occurred on freeways that run through the Valley, officials said.
While most of the crashes do not result in injuries, Geha and nine other Valley residents lost their lives last year - all of those cases unsolved. Because overwhelmed law enforcement typically moves on to more pressing cases, many families of the victims are left forever wondering what happened.
Gary Bladow, one of two investigators with the California Highway Patrol's Valley station, said the high number of cases points to many motorists' "lack of wanting to take responsibility."
"Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of those who do it don't come forward," Bladow said. "My desk is full of cases. In the four years that I've been here, I've never had an empty desk."
The Los Angeles Police Department's Valley Traffic Division says unlicensed or drunk drivers are those most likely to flee the scene of a crash.
To prevent those types of crashes, the division has targeted those motorists, last year impounding 11,493 cars from unlicensed drivers and arresting 2,951 motorists for driving while intoxicated, an 18 percent increase from 2004.
"We led the city," Capt. Ronald Marbrey said. "We are committed to bringing drunk drivers in."
LAPD Detective Bill Bustos said hit-and-run drivers rarely surrender, but when they do, they often say the same thing.
"They say they were scared and they didn't know what to do, and they panicked and they fled," he said. "But it would be a lot better if motorists knew the law. They have a responsibility to stop. It becomes a crime when they flee."
Under California law, a driver involved in any incident resulting in injury or death must stop immediately and report the crash, or face a felony violation that can lead to up to four years in county jail and up to a $10,000 fine.
Those who damage property and run can be charged with a misdemeanor leading to up to six months in jail and $1,000 in fines.
Hit-and-runs also have increased steadily in Glendale, where police have dedicated two investigators solely to those crashes.
Detectives say they are close to finding the motorist who hit and killed Geha, who would have turned 69 on Christmas Eve and planned to retire from his job as a security guard at the end of 2005. His family has set up a $10,000 reward. Geha's employer, Farmers Insurance, has matched that amount.
"We believe we know who the suspect is," Glendale police Detective Matt Gunnell said. "She is a fugitive. We're working very hard to find her."
But for those who lose someone to the crime, the pain never stops, said Reseda resident Vincent Ballajadia, who lost his mother to a hit-and-run driver.
Gloria Ballajadia, 75, died Dec. 18 of injuries suffered Nov. 5 when she was struck by a white or silver hatchback at Alvarado and Temple streets in Los Angeles while returning home from playing bingo.
"There's not one minute every day when I don't think about my mom, how we had these happy times," said Ballajadia, 37. "It's very devastating when people don't care, when they think they can just hit somebody and speed away."
Ballajadia said police have offered few answers, and he has lost hope of ever finding the culprits.
"All I have left are memories and videotapes of all the good times with the family," he said. "Every time I look at those tapes, I feel like I'm dreaming.
"I have a message for the killers: They took away someone who is dear to the family. It's not like a cat or puppy they ran over. This is a person who lived 75 years on this Earth and made a big impact."
For those injured in a hit-and-run, the accident is often life-changing.
Doug Gregory, 21, has a hole behind his right knee, a scar so deep doctors considered skin grafts. The injuries could quash his dream of becoming a firefighter.
As an emergency medical technician, he has seen firsthand the result of hit-and-run accidents. But at 7 a.m. Jan. 2, he became a victim of one while attending to a crash scene near the eastbound 118 Freeway interchange. A gray pickup truck slammed into his legs, then another car, before hitting a soundwall, spinning out and then continuing on, sputtering smoke.
"I was knocked out for a few minutes," Gregory said from his Woodland Hills home, where he sat propped up against pillows, his right leg in a brace. "My head was lying in the slow lane, and I could see cars go by just a foot away."
In a strange way, the unidentified driver might have done him a favor.
Gregory had enlisted in the Marines. The day after he was hit, he would have gone off to boot camp, and maybe into the war zones of Iraq. He has decided to go to college instead.
"I'm not angry. I'm just so grateful I'm alive and breathing and walking," he said. "I just wish the person would come forward and take responsibility, so it won't happen again to someone else."
I'd guess that a big reason people don't stop is that even if it were an accident they'd be sued to hell and back. Even if no one were severly injured they would be raked over the coals and suffer for years. I truly don't believe that people should flee after a hit and run....but this is just my take on "why" people may not stop.
Can anyone say "uninsured illegal immigrants"????
Sure you can.
Yeah, sure. It's really a GOOD thing when drunk drivers cause permanent injuries to good people, 'cause it keeps those good people from going off to fight Bush's evil war. < /s>
Boy has the Valley changed. It wasn't so hot when I lived there back in the early 70's, glad I am not there now.
I don't think most of the Valley was ever "lower-middle class white trash", but you're right about it being a 3rd world cesspool now.
More like, "Lo siento, fue accidente."
Ding Ding Ding - We have a winner! Have an accident and just wait for the lawyers to start circling to pick your bones clean, with or without insurance.
Not a surprise, SF Valley has been overrun by illegal aliens. They drive like they are still in Mexico: hitting the horn and blowing through stop signs is common. You risk life and limb entering much of the valley. It has morphed from a lower-middle class white trash community (mostly law abiding) to another 3rd world cesspool.""
I think illegal intruders are the answer to this question, also.
I lived in the San Fernando Valley from 1966 to 1993. I lived thru alot of the "growth", and frankly, the influx of the illegal intruders was one of the big reasons I left. I couldn't drive down the street with my windows open and not get approached by 3-7 of them at every stoplight, "looking for work". I felt very threatened.
I had reason to go back there last July for a week, and I couldn't believe the differences. Speed limits on 6 lane streets are 50% higher than where I now live in rural Nevada. If the light even thought of turning green, it was a drag race like Pro Stock cars to the next light. I was driving a 1 ton dually truck, and I don't drag race with it. I don't know how many times I almost got rearended by someone pushing me to leave a stop light. Lots of horns and shaking fists. Beyond stupid and intimidating. I hope no one I know there dies before me, because I don't want to go back to attend a funeral.
I was offered a very nice job at a VERY lucrative salary, and I turned it down flat. Couldn't pay me enough to go back to the area. Too much crime, too much lack of courtesy. Just too much of everything negative. I was glad I had my dogs with me in the truck, as I didn't even feel real good getting out to pump gas.
It's No fun<p.
Being and illegal A-li-en
I live in the under-patrolled Northridge of the San Fernando Valley. A few years ago around midnight on a Saturday night there was an assault and beating across the street. The LAPD finally showed up - a petite and very lovely young woman - alone. No back up at all. She never even got out of the car. All the real cops are dealing with MS 13 HQ just a few miles away on Columbus Street in Mission Hills...
"says unlicensed or drunk drivers are those most likely to flee the scene of a crash."
I would add to that "uninsured motorists".
I would add "illegals", but I'm not so sure they really have anything to fear from local police in a lot of areas anyway.
The same way over here in Indiana. One of my employee's was smashed broadside by a young latino kid who fled. He was never found and my guy had to eat the deductible.
The Policeman told him he had been "Taco'd". Their term for a hit and run involving an illegal. Again......this is Indiana.
Heh, you wonder why you don't hear that song on the radio anymore...
And the guess is wrong.
There is a reason that hit and runs are up in California. Read some of the other replies for the answer.
There is a direct correlation between California's rapidly changing demographics and the rise in hit-and-run accidents. FYI: The incidence of leg bail, after injury accidents, is also up dramatically. First responders frequently arrive to find that the injured have fled with the help of their companions.
The principle contributor is culture in California, not fear of civil law or the cost of medical treatment.
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