Fighting hit-and-runs

A number of high-profile hit-and-run incidents could easily give the mistaken impression that this sort of crime is on the rise.

Police generic in english crime scene 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar)
Police generic in english crime scene 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar)
A number of high-profile hit-and-run incidents could easily give the mistaken impression that this particularly heinous sort of crime is on the rise.
In August, Shushan Baraby, a convicted criminal, shocked the nation when he raced through a crosswalk in Netanya at high speed while drunk and plowed into Svetlana Yigudiyev, 56, her daughter Shoshana, 25, and Svetlana’s cousin Alexandra Rubinov, 67, killing all three. Not only did Baraby and another man riding in the passenger seat abandon the mutilated bodies of the three women, Baraby also attempted to force another man to take the blame for the crime.
In the same month, Yaniv Fierovskin, ran over 15-yearold Tigist Bito and 19-year-old Radit Baltat with his all-terrain vehicle as the two were training with their cross-country running team near Kibbutz Givat Brenner.
Baltat, who aspires to compete in the next Olympics, originally feared her broken leg would end her running career.
In a less publicized incident that took place last week, 45-year-old Wandamanach Almayhu was run over and abandoned while crossing Route 44 near Ramle. As is often the case in hit-and-runs, Almayhu was hit by several cars after being run over by the hit-and-run offender.
Unless the first driver stops his or her car and flags down traffic, the chances are good that additional cars will run over the downed and, therefore less visible, pedestrian.
Still, while each of these cases cries out for justice, we should be encouraged by a few positive developments.
First, the number of fatalities caused by hit-and-runs has fallen in recent years, according to data provided by the Israel Police. If in the 1990s, between 15 and 20 people were killed on average annually in hit-and-run incidents, in recent years that number has dropped to between 10 and 15.
In addition, the total number of hit-and-runs that result in injuries is down to less than a thousand from around 1,200.
Part of the reason for the decrease in hit-and-runs has to do with better police enforcement, which translates into prevention. More pervasive technologies such as cameras, cellphones and electronic tracking devices mean more hit-and-run perpetrators get caught. Police have also devoted resources – including the establishment of a special investigative unit – to nabbing perpetrators of hit-and-runs, particularly those cases in which reckless drivers kill, handicap or severely injure innocent pedestrians or bicyclists (most hit-and-runs do not involve another car). As a result, over 90% of these criminals are eventually caught, compared to just half in the 1990s. Making these figures better known to the wider public will undoubtedly help bring down the number of hit-and-runs even more. If a driver involved in an accident knows that the chances of getting caught are very high, he or she might think twice about fleeing the scene.
In addition, the Knesset passed legislation, drafted by MKs Moshe Matalon and Robert Elatov (Yisrael Beytenu) and Ze’ev Bielski (Kadima) that bans outright plea bargains in hit-and-run cases and doubles the maximum sentence for a deadly hit-and-run – not including other offenses such as driving under the influence or obstructing justice – to 14 years. The media attention received by this amendment to the law will probably further reduce the number of hit-and-runs.
Unfortunately, in the face of strong opposition from the Justice Ministry, the MKs removed a clause that would have instituted a minimum sentence for a deadly hit-and-run to three years. According to Bielski, justice ministry officials argued against a high minimum punishment because they said it would force judges to release those suspects whose guilt has not been proven.
However, this makes no sense since no suspect should be punished unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Therefore, minimum punishment for hit-and-run offenders should be reconsidered so that judges are forced to give hit-and-run offenders the punishment they deserve.
Hit-and-runs might be on the decline, but “just” 10 to 15 deaths – some of which preventable had the driver remained on the scene – must not be tolerated. If a minimum sentence deters even one driver from abandoning a downed pedestrian and that pedestrian’s life is saved as a result, it will have been worth it.