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Police: California man tried to hide bike accident damage

Los Angeles recorded over 18,000 hit-and-run collisions in 2011, claiming three dozen lives. KCRW reported 72 percent of victims who died were pedestrians or bicyclists. In the past, many hit-and-run drivers escaped criminal and civil penalties, but advanced tracking methods – aided by the prevalence of photo-ready cellphones among witnesses -- have allowed law enforcement agencies to step up their game.

Santa Cruz police spent more than a month investigating a fatal bicycle accident that occurred the day after Christmas. Authorities knew the crash that killed a 63-year-old bike rider was caused by a white pickup truck, but it took time to narrow the field. A 41-year-old man recently was arrested for causing the fatality, after surrendering to police.

The man was the driver of a white Ford F-150 truck with an extra cab. Investigators said the defendant altered the look of the truck to hide accident damage. Evidence linked to the bicycle accident was found during a search of the truck and the driver's Live Oak home.

The man was booked into jail on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and felony hit-and-run.

What compels drivers to leave behind a seriously injured accident victim? In many cases, motorists fear punishment for laws they've already broken like driving unlicensed or while intoxicated. Some hit-and-run drivers simply take the gamble that they won't be found and unfortunately, some get away.

When Los Angeles drivers leave the scene of an injury crash, they show a complete disregard for the health and safety of others. It is every driver's duty to take reasonable precautions to protect other road users from harm. It is also illegal to flee from responsibilities following accidents involving other vehicles, pedestrians or bicyclists.

In addition to criminal punishment, hit-and-run drivers also may incur civil penalties. Injury and wrongful death claims help victims and their families recover damages like pain and suffering, medical costs and lost wages.

Source: Santa Cruz Patch, "Break In Fatal Hit-and-Run: Man Turns Himself In" Susan C. Schena, Jan. 30, 201

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