Philadelphia grapples with how to address high rate of hit-and-run crashes

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Traffic safety advocates in Philadelphia say hit-and-run crashes have become a crisis the city can no longer ignore.

Six weeks out from the end of 2023, the city has already surpassed last year’s total for fatal hit-and-run crashes, according to police and PennDOT data.

To date, 38 people have died in hit-and-run crashes in the city. That’s more than double the total recorded in 2019.

“Hit-and-runs are an epidemic in Philadelphia,” said Sarah Clark Stuart, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.

The intersection of Spruce and Hicks streets in Center City, where police say Sixers star Kelly Oubre Jr. was struck by a hit-and-run driver. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

On Saturday night, the issue made national news after a driver struck and seriously injured Philadelphia 76er Kelly Oubre Jr. while he was walking alone near his Center City home.

The high-profile crash near Broad and Spruce streets landed the small forward in the hospital with a broken rib and other injuries, raising alarm bells for basketball fans and traffic safety advocates alike.

Police are still searching for the person who drove off after hitting Oubre.

“While shocking, this incident is a reminder that traffic violence can happen to anyone. We must get serious about this issue to protect all Philadelphians,” wrote City Councilmember Isaiah Thomas on “X” — formerly known as Twitter — the day after the incident.

The freshman lawmaker, who won reelection last Tuesday, said improving traffic safety will be one of his top policy recommendations for Mayor-elect Cherelle Parker, who will lead a city with a traffic death rate that outpaces most big cities in the country, including New York City and Chicago.

To Thomas, that’s a big problem.

“When you’re trying to attract new businesses and new residents to the city, because that’s important to our local economy, this is an item that makes people reluctant to relocate here,” Thomas said in an interview. “It continues to promote this gloomy, dark cloud that’s over the city right now. Yet another problem in Philadelphia that gives the perception that our city is dangerous and lawless.”

  • November 15, 2023
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