Rising Hit-and-Run Injuries, Deaths Pose Public Safety Risk

Joseph Talamantes, 14, left and  Shaionnie Lopez, 17, hold candles during a vigil for her brother, 11-year-old Michael Espinoza, near the spot the fifth grader was hit by a car and killed crossing Federal Blvd., near Colfax Avenue with Talamantes. Police say Oswald Lopez was racing a motorcycle, then fled after his car struck Espinoza on Sunday night. Lopez was arrested and charged with vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of a fatal accident. (Joe Mahoney/I-News at Rocky Mountain PBS)

Joe Mahoney / I-News at Rocky Mountain PBS

Joseph Talamantes, 14, left and Shaionnie Lopez, 17, hold candles during a vigil for her brother, 11-year-old Michael Espinoza, near the spot the fifth grader was hit by a car and killed crossing Federal Blvd., near Colfax Avenue with Talamantes. Police say Oswald Lopez was racing a motorcycle, then fled after his car struck Espinoza on Sunday night. Lopez was arrested and charged with vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of a fatal accident. (Joe Mahoney/I-News at Rocky Mountain PBS)News at Rocky Mountain PBS

The rising numbers behind hit-and-run injuries and deaths in Colorado are grim, as reported by an ongoing investigation by I-News at Rocky Mountain PBS and 9News:

Mikey Espinoza

Family Photo

Michael Espinoza was killed while crossing Federal Boulevard near Colfax Avenue in Denver on Sunday night, Feb. 16, 2014 by a car that did not stop after striking the 11-year-old boy. Police arrested Oswald Lopez later Sunday and have charged him for the accident. (Family Photo)

– Hit-and-run fatalities are rising in Colorado as overall traffic deaths are falling. In 2012, 34 people were killed across Colorado by hit-and-run drivers, almost double the 18 deaths the year before. The result was the state ranked 10th in the U.S. in terms of hit-and-run fatalities per capita. Statistics for last year have not yet been compiled.

– A total of 104 people have been killed by hit-and-run drivers between 2008 and 2012. Almost two-thirds, or 64, were pedestrians or bicyclists.

– Between 2011 and 2013, about 1,300 people in the metro area’s three largest cities – Denver, Aurora and Lakewood – were injured in hit and run accidents. That is more than one a day. The injuries ranged from bruises to paralysis. A breakdown of injury accidents by Lakewood police found that about one out of every 13 injury hit-and-run incidents in its city resulted in death or incapacitating trauma.

– Denver police reported 18,662 hit and run accidents of all types, both injury and non-injury, during the past three years. That is an average of 17 a day.

Legislators have passed a law to toughen criminal penalties and several cities have adopted alert systems to ask the public’s help in tracking down perpetrators. But the carnage has continued.

The I-News/9News collaborative investigation will continue for much of this year. 9News has created the #JUSTSTOP to encourage public dialogue.

Click here to search Twitter for #JustStop

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