In the blink of an eye, a traffic accident can change your life. In the case of a hit-and-run, it can leave some people devastated.
"She took a lot from me. And I don't hold that against her, you know, because it was an accident. But I'm the one suffering," said Marie Burfict-Francois, as tears streamed down her face.
Burfict-Francois is a New Orleans street entertainer, dubbed the Queen of Bourbon Street by some French Quarter patrons.
A good samaritan shot this video after Burfict-Francois was knocked off her three-wheel bicycle by a hit-and-run driver in June. Her bike landed on top of her.
"I didn't know I had got hit until I looked at that way (turns head) and I saw a black car. she was on this side of me. The bike was on top of me. She knocked me so hard," said Burfict-Francois.
Burfict-Francois rides her bike 3 miles from her home to Bourbon Street every day. The accident forced her to lose out on her second source of income, which she uses to beef up her social security.
"You've hit some someone and you make that split second decision to run because, you know, when we're in, when we encounter a really scary situation, our first instinct is to run away from it," said Divya Sangameshwar with LendingTree.
The number of hit-and-run accidents have soared across the country. The U.S. Department of Transportation recorded around 2,500 fatalities in 2020 — up 25% from the year before.
"We looked at data of fatal hit runs between 2012 and 2021, which is the latest year of data available, and there's been an increase in hit runs by 89.4% in this time period, " said Sangameshwar.
Cases analyzed by LendingTree show nearly two-thirds of those fatal hit and runs involved pedestrians. California, Texas and Florida each had over 1,000 hit-and-run deaths between 2010 and 2019.
A report by AAA on the problem says in cases where the drivers are caught, the offenders are more likely to be young men with a history of drunk driving, license suspensions and no insurance. Convictions can bring fines and jail time.
74-year-old Burfict-Francois says these bruises are slowly going away. But her fear of getting back out on her three-wheel bike hasn't subsided and she's got knee pain.
"This knee, I think it feels like it still bothers me. It feels like I might have a crack bone or something because it's really a sharp, sharp pain up in there," Burfict-Francois said.
With no plans to move, she's now rethinking her second career.
"I know it's time for me to change. I been out there since 2012. It been almost 11, 12 years, almost," said Burfict-Francois.
Traffic safety experts aren't sure why the U.S. is seeing a spike in hit-and-runs but are looking into higher rates of speeding, less use of mass transit and data on impaired driving.
Sangameshwar says the key takeaway is everyone needs to practice safe driving: Don't speed, and cut out the distractions while behind the wheel.
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