Washington State Patrol unveils new hit-and-run alert

1 August 2023

Hit-and-runs continue to plague state roadways, and the Washington State Patrol (WSP) is launching a new text alert system to try and catch those responsible.

According to Washington State Patrol Director of Communications Chris Loftis, troopers investigated more than 3,000 hit-and-runs last year, which is an average of about eight crashes per day.

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About 300 of the hit-and-run instances left people seriously injured or dead. Crashes like these will now trigger the new text alert system.

Loftis likens it to other alerts put out by the state like Amber and Missing Persons Alerts. The State Patrol expects they will be just as effective in finding people.

It’s unclear how often hit-and-run suspects have successfully evaded investigators.

“It’s one of the most frustrating things for our troopers on the road,” Loftis said but could not immediately recall the specific number of open cases.

When crashes happen outside urban areas, investigations are hampered by fewer cameras – surveillance cameras, dashboard cameras, phones, and more. Loftis says in those situations, troopers often have to rely on witnesses doing the right thing.

Alerts will be sent out to the media as well as to those who sign up to receive them electronically. Local law enforcement public information officers will also post them on social media, and the Washington State Department of Transportation may employ its electronic signs on highways as well as radio messages.

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WSP listed three criteria that would be necessary for a hit-and-run alert to be activated by the system.

A hit-and-run collision resulting in serious injury or death.
Enough descriptive information is available to assist in locating the suspect vehicle (i.e. a full or partial license plate, a description of the vehicle and any possible damage, location and direction of travel, etc.)
The incident has been reported and is being investigated by a law enforcement agency.

A recent case that would have fit in the criteria was also in court this week. Authorities say a 19-year-old was likely drunk when he ran over a 12-year-old boy. The driver pled not guilty on Monday to charges of vehicular homicide and reckless driving.

“If you see or hear the alert and then see what you think might be the suspect vehicle, call 911 and report your location,” said Chief Batiste. “DO NOT ENGAGE with the vehicle or driver under any circumstances. Let our troopers and our fine local law enforcement officers do their jobs in safely and professionally contacting suspect vehicles,” WSP Chief John R. Batiste emphasized. “Let’s all do our part to keep the roadways and one another safer.”

The alert system is active as of Tuesday.

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