The psychology behind choosing to leave
A car speeds down a South Sacramento street, hitting a five year old child walking nearby. The driver speeds off, leaving the child critically injured in the street.
This happens more often than you would think. In the past month, a 25-year-old man was hit from behind while riding his bike to his new job at FedEx. Police say he may have been hit around 11 p.m. on Thursday, but his body wasn’t found until almost four hours later.
That begs the question: What sort of people choose to flee crash scenes – especially after hurting someone?
“Mostly what you’re looking at is people who blame others for their behaviors,” said forensic clinical specialist Dr. Paul Clements.
It comes down a lack of empathy.
“That it was an accident and they either blame the person for getting in their way. Or [the victim] should have been paying better attention.”
Clements, a professor at Drexel University, says in this article from 2013 that the act doesn’t usually have malicious intent like premeditated murder. He believes these drivers suffer from a lack of good moral judgment – that should have been instilled when they were young.
“You didn’t plan 20 blocks before to kill Mrs. Smith and her daughter when she’s crossing the street,” he said.
The Legal repercussion for texting while driving, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or even having an expired driver’s license are all such triggers for these drivers to run. Clements says hit-and-run drivers downplay the severity of the situation to rationalize leaving.
“They just sort of minimize it as ‘Well it can’t be that bad,’” he said. “A lot of the people who are doing these kinds of things have some sort of personality issues.”