Florida is among the top three states with the highest per capita rates of fatal hit-and-run crashes, a new study published on Thursday by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found.
From 2006 to 2016, the organization examined hit-and-run crashes in the U.S. The study found that 2016 was the year with the highest number of fatal crashes with 2,049 deaths ó a 60 percent increase since 2009.
New Mexico, Louisiana and Florida had the highest rates of fatal hit-and-runs. New Hampshire, Maine and Minnesota had the lowest rates
On average, hit-and-run deaths have increased 7.2 percent each year since 2009, the study found.
"Hit-and-run crashes in the United States are trending in the wrong direction," said David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. "Our analysis shows that hit-and-run crashes are a growing traffic safety challenge and the AAA Foundation would like to work with all stakeholders to help curtail this problem."
In 2016, Florida had 206 hit-and-run crashes involving at least one death, according to the study. From 2006-2016, Florida had 1,814 hit-and-run crashes involving at least one death.
Nationwide, researchers found that an average of 682,000 hit-and-run crashes took place each year since 2006, and 65 percent of the people killed in those crashes were pedestrians or bicyclists.
The Tampa Bay area has had several hit-and-run incidents recently.
On April 14, a Tampa man drove through a stop sign, hit a car, killing the driver, and fled on foot.
A driver fatally struck a 56-year-old bicyclist in Pinellas Park in March and drove away, and in February, a Tampa pedestrian was fatally struck by a hit-and-run vehicle in the 6900 block of E Adamo Drive.
One of the more high-profile incidents occurred in 2016, as Allison Huffman was accused of fatally striking Rogelio Perez-Borroto, a tow truck driver who was helping stranded drivers. Huffman kept going, abandoned the car and went to a casino, deputies said.
In each state, itís illegal for drivers involved in crashes to flee the scene and penalties vary depending on the severity of the incident.
"It is every driverís legal and moral responsibility to take necessary precautions to avoid hitting a pedestrian, bicyclist or another vehicle," said Jennifer Ryan, director of state relations for AAA. "While no one likes being involved in a crash, leaving the scene will significantly increase the penalties for drivers whether they caused the crash or not."