WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Wilmington police say distracted driving is to blame for an increase in hit-and-run accidents. Statistics from the department show that hit-and-run accidents have climbed slightly over the past four years with numbers trending downward in 2017.
Captain Kathy Cochran attributes the rise in crashes to distracted driving, but said growth and road construction may also play a part.
She said the department's clearance rate, or number of solved cases, has risen around 14 percent as well. She attributes the rising clearance rate to the availability to see footage during a crash.
"In addition to the videos that we're able to review, the community plays a huge part," Cochran said. "The information they're able to provide once they see the videos we put out on social media, we couldn't do it without them."
Cochran said leaving the scene of an accident automatically increases consequences for drivers.
"Once you leave the scene of that accident, now it's become a felony, where before it was a misdemeanor, so the consequences are definitely different," she said. "You make it more serious when you leave the scene."
Cochran advises drivers to pull over immediately after being involved in an accident.
"Stay put, provide your information, check on the person if somebody's been involved and they're injured," she said. "It goes a long way when you go to court."
Cochran said the department added an officer dedicated to investigating hit-and-run crashes this year.
According to a study from AAA, hit-and-run deaths hit a record high in 2016, increasing an average 7.2 percent each year since 2009.