PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There have been 126 fatal crashes in the city of Philadelphia so far this year, numbers not seen since 2007. Included in that troubling figure are hit-and-runs, cases that are notoriously difficult to solve.
“Society cannot tolerate people who strike a person with their vehicle and then leave,” said Capt. Mark Overwise, commanding officer of the Accident Investigation District.
“You should at least stop and at least send my mom to the hospital. Maybe my mom would be [able to] survive." -Joy Lin, daughter-in-law of Saixiang Lin, 60, who was run down in NE Philly on Nov 10.@CBSPhilly @ 530pm explores an alarming spike in fatal hit & runs in city in 2020. pic.twitter.com/xi5D9CtoOR
— Trang Do (@TrangDoCBS3) November 19, 2020
But in 2020, it is happening at an alarming rate in Philadelphia. With six weeks left to go in the year, there have been 19 hit-and-runs where a pedestrian was killed — nearly triple last year’s total.
Overwise says the pandemic seems to be a contributing factor.
“Less people on the road will lead people to drive faster. Speed, we know, speed kills,” Overwise said. “Also, with less people on the road, people may be more inclined to take chances that they wouldn’t take if there was more traffic.”
Joy Lin’s mother-in-law, Saixiang Lin, is one of the latest victims. The 60-year-old grandmother was on an early morning walk in her Castor Gardens neighborhood, when she was mowed down at the intersection of St. Vincent Street and Summerdale Avenue on Nov. 10.
“You hit my mom, it was an accident. You don’t want to do that because nobody wants to do that,” Lin said, addressing the driver who left her mother-in-law in the street. “You should at least stop and at least send my mom to the hospital. Maybe my mom would be [able to] survive.”
Lin has channeled her anger and grief into combing the neighborhood for surveillance video. One video she obtained shows a man police believe to be the driver pull over at a nearby intersection. Police say the car appears to be a white or silver Chevy Uplander minivan — model year 2005 to 2009.
“He got out of the car and checked the front, which means he hit my mom and probably wanted to see what the damage was,” she said.
But even with good surveillance video, these cases are often challenging to solve. Police say they’ve located the white Chevy Camaro with a red racing stripe that struck and killed 32-year-old bicyclist Will Lindsay on the 3800 block of Ridge Avenue in July. But the next step is proving who was behind the wheel.
“Every day seems longer than 24 hours,” said Will’s mother, Monica Lindsay. “But we hope and pray that somehow, somebody might come forward.”
Lindsay’s family is hopeful that a $25,000 reward will prompt new leads.
“This person that did this has no idea what they took away from the world,” said Philip Lindsay, Will’s brother. “We’re never going to stop until we get enough information to get justice for Will and also make the streets safer for bicyclists.”
Overwise says these cases take a toll on his investigators as well.
“We lose sleep over these,” he said. “We take these personally.”
Overwise wants to emphasize that being involved in a fatal crash isn’t a crime in itself, but leaving the scene is when drivers get themselves in trouble.
“Once you make that decision to leave that person there, and not call 911 and not call police and not render aid, you have committed a crime,” he said.
Last Friday, the city unveiled its Vision Zero plan to end traffic deaths by 2030 and released this statement to Eyewitness News:
“The City is committed to tackling this public health crisis by eliminating traffic deaths on our streets. Fatal crashes are preventable, including hit-and-runs. Last week Mayor Kenney renewed Philadelphia’s work on Vision Zero and released a comprehensive action plan that emphasizes safe speeds and safe streets. Learn more at www.visionzerophl.com.”
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