Shockingly, hit-and-run cases involving pedestrians have nearly quadrupled in four years, and even more disturbing is the increasing trend for drivers not to stop. Just this past Saturday night there was yet another hit and run, the victim was crossing Colfax Avenue just east of Jamaica Street at about 11:30 p.m. when he was hit by an eastbound vehicle. Passersby who saw the man lying unconscious in the street flagged down a police officer. They did not see the accident. Police are asking for the public’s help in finding the suspect.
In all, the city has had 384 auto-pedestrian collisions, compared with 254 in the period in 2009. About one in every four auto-pedestrian collisions in Denver is a hit-and-run, according to Denver police. Nationally, that figure is about one in five.
Even when drivers are eventually caught, often they allowed to avoid prison time through plea agreements with prosecutors. One of the most egregious of recent cases is that of Erin Jackson, a 30-year-old former teacher, who at the time worked at a local charter school. In February Jackson ran a red light and hit 16-year-old Deyondrah Bridgeman, a student on her way to East High School. Jackson left the scene without stopping, claiming that she did not realize she had hit a pedestrian – yet much of her explanation given when she ultimately turned herself into police had serious discrepancies with actual facts. Bridgeman is still recovering from a severe brain injury suffered when she was hit and thrown into the air.
Jackson was sentenced last Friday. Prosecutors had dismissed the most serious charge . So Erin Jackson, pleaded guilty to attempting to leave the scene of an accident causing serious bodily injury, a Class 5 felony on Aug. 5. As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors dropped the more serious charge of leaving the scene of an accident causing serious bodily injury — which Jackson pleaded not guilty to — a Class 4 felony.
And what was the sentence for this teacher after running down and arguably destroying a young student’s future? Jackson was sentenced to five years of probation, to be served in Denver. The condition in the plea agreement does require her to perform 350 hours of community service to be performed working with brain injury victims.
Denver had 100 hit-and-run cases involving pedestrians from Jan. 1 to Aug. 17, compared with 28 during that same period in 2009, police said. Laws, CDOT efforts and tickets can only do so much, until the public demands that prosecutors and judges treat the hit and run drivers with the same harshness given drunk drivers, there is little hope for a change in the trend.