Waking up in the morning to find that sometime during the night a motorist plowed into your parked car and fled the scene can really put a damper on your day.
But this scenario is not unusual in Napa, according to Napa Police Sgt. Paul Paniagua, head of the ’s traffic division.
“In 2009 and 2010, we took 533 hit-and-run reports,” Paniagua said. “In those two years and so far this year we have not had any hit-and-run fatalities.”
Paniagua said arrests have been made and 84 cases were filed with the district attorney’s office for prosecution, 47 percent of them involving drunk drivers.
“I don’t have records on how many of the 84 cases the DA filed charges on,” he said.
”If we can get a description of the suspect driver, it makes it a lot easier to make an arrest,” Paniagua said.
“Also when a suspect runs from the scene, the car is left behind. We can look at the registered owner of the vehicle and go from there.”
But “it’s a lot more difficult when the reporting party didn’t see when it happened and can’t identify the responsible party,” he said, adding that is usually the case when parked cars are hit.
There are numerous filings each year for property damage due to hit-and-run accidents, Paniagua said. “Without a description of the driver, witnesses or a license plate number we don’t have much to go on.”
Paniagua said people can do certain things to protect themselves and their property: Pedestrians should walk on sidewalks or as close to the curb as possible and walk against the flow of traffic, he said.
“Be aware of your surroundings and follow the law.”
Bicyclists must follow the same laws as drivers: “They must ride with the flow of the traffic, stop at all stop signs and lights,” Paniagua said.
“They also have to be aware that in the event of an accident, they have minimal protection.”
Napa resident Carly Rettener was the victim of a hit-and-run.
“I was riding my bicycle while visiting my parents in San Diego. I was obeying the rules of the road when a right turn driver wheeled around the corner and clipped me in the crosswalk,” she said.
“I was knocked to the ground, but only got scrapes and bruises. I was lucky. I am sure he knew he hit me, but he never stopped. That was the end of it.”