Our Views: Hit-and-run deaths high

Separate hit-and-run incidents in New Orleans and Baton Rouge have each claimed a police officer as a victim – a measure, perhaps, of the degree to which such crimes leave everyone vulnerable to their impact.

A July 7 hit-and-run on Interstate 10 in New Orleans killed Officer Rodney Thomas after Thomas, who had been involved in a minor accident, got out of his car to check on the other driver involved. Thomas was off-duty, but in uniform, when he was run over.

In a separate incident outside a Baton Rouge apartment complex in the early morning hours of July 20, a hit-and-run driver struck and injured Baton Rouge police Officer Wallace Britton as he was investigating a vehicle break-in. Rita Canty, 58, of 5680 Prescott Road, who was discussing the break-in with Britton, also was injured in the hit-and run incident.

We’re glad that arrests have been made in both cases. Perhaps the involvement of police officers as victims of these incidents will help throw a greater light on a problem that’s all too prevalent in the area.

In New Orleans, over the past three years, about 18 percent of drivers involved in fatal accidents have left the scene. In the nation as a whole, only about 4 percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes leave the scene.

The Baton Rouge Police Department was unable to provide data about hit-and-run fatalities in Baton Rouge in recent years. But that data is obviously worth tracking, since the first step in addressing any problem is measuring its severity.

Even one lost or damaged life as a result of a hit-and-run accident is one too many, of course, and we hope that recent hit-and-run incidents in New Orleans and Baton Rouge inspire greater resolve to prosecute hit-and-run drivers aggressively. Prevention also is key, and law enforcement officials should closely examine the degree to which impaired driving because of drugs or alcohol is contributing to hit-and-run accidents.

Mandeville resident James Laplante, whose son Andy recently died at the hands of a hit-and-run driver in New Orleans, said he can’t understand why any motorist would leave a fellow human being to die.

We should share James Laplante’s outrage, and act upon it.

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