It was supposed to be a simple errand to the Walgreens across the street. But minutes after leaving his apartment, 39-year-old Rasheed Wiggins was dead. Hit three times by three different drivers – two who fled the scene. Rasheed was standing in the median when he was hit – he wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary. He was following the rules. Waiting for a break in the stream of cars zooming by to cross the street. Who would expect a car to swerve onto the median and not only hit you but flee the scene?
It’s bad enough that people like Rasheed are dying in the metro Orlando area simply trying to walk across the street or ride their bike. Unfortunately, 2016 has also seen an uptick of hit-and-runs. Rasheed’s death marks the seventh fatal hit-and-run crash in Orange County this year. Between January and April of 2015, there were only two.
Since the start of 2016, local news outlets have reported on at least eight pedestrian or bicyclist-related hit-and-runs in Central Florida. The motorists who struck these people all fled the scene of the crash. Six of the hit-and-runs harmed people walking. Four people were killed and two survived – one with critical injuries. Both of the hit-and-runs involving people on bikes were fatal.
To be clear – if someone hits a pedestrian or bicyclist and flees the scene, they are looking at a felony and jail time, if convicted. No matter who is deemed at fault.
The spate of hit-and-runs in Metro Orlando is an unwelcome trend that appears to be gaining momentum in the headlines, with one reported in January, two in February, five in March and one in April. Five of the eight accidents occurred at night, between 8:30 p.m. and 10:40 p.m.
Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Kim Montes said hit and runs have reached “epidemic” proportions in Metro Orlando.
The top two reasons for racing away from an accident, Montes said, are driver impairment or lack of a valid license.
“Why make the situation worse?” she said of motorists who keep going. “We’re getting better at catching people.”
Investigators, Montes said, often obtain photos or video of the collision either through someone using their smart phone or a surveillance camera mounted by a business or at an intersection.
“People need to stop,” she said, “because they are going to get caught.”