What is The Psychology Behind Hit-and-Runs?

Hit-and-run is a disturbing phenomenon occurring on roads across the globe. This act of leaving accident scenes after causing a collision without even stopping to assist, not to mention reporting, has put many victims in dangerous circumstances. The psychology behind hit-and-runs is one factor that needs to be understood.

Hit-and-run accident claims are not only legally complex but also emotionally challenging for victims. These accidents usually leave victims feeling vulnerable and wondering what to do. Getting inside the mindset that drives a person to flee from the scene of a crime can help the authorities design better policies and prevent such accidents.

In this article, we will explore the various underlying psychological factors of those who engage in hit-and-runs.

Avoiding Consequences

Most hit-and-run drivers are trying to avoid the consequences of their actions. This may include:

  • Fear of arrest
  • Increased premiums on insurance
  • Damage to reputation

Some drivers may already be in trouble with the law, either by driving with a suspended license or driving under the influence, and see fleeing as a way not to make things worse.

Lack of Empathy or Morals

Only those with a lack of empathy can flee the scene of the accident after causing it. This is usually the result of inherent personality characteristics or, more likely, a transient state of moral disengagement.

In a highly stressful situation, a person could rationalize or minimize the injury caused, thus making it easier to leave the scene without helping the person in need.

Influence of Alcohol or Drugs

A majority of hit-and-run cases involve substance use. Alcohol and drugs lower inhibitions, affect judgment, and disrupt the clarity of making decisions.

Intoxicated drivers may be driven to flee from the scene because of disorientation, fear of being possibly held in custody for driving under influence, or simply because they do not realize what has happened.

Psychological Distress and Mental Health Issues

In some cases, a hit-and-run is associated with mental conditions or high levels of stress.

For instance, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, or even a state of high tension can weaken a person’s ability to cope with the aftermath of an accident, thus making them feel the need to leave the scene.

Cultural and Social Factors

In some situations, it may be for cultural or social reasons that a driver flees. This might include an overall mistrust of authorities, fear of the courts, or cultural norms that emphasize losing face or family honor versus taking responsibility.

Misperception of the Situation

Some drivers leave the scene because they simply do not believe that they have hurt someone. Of course, this can be caused by shock, poor visibility, or a lack of assessment.

Again, while it is not a valid excuse, this makes a case for driver education on the importance of stopping and checking after any collision, regardless of how minor the apparent damage or injury may seem.

The Role of Circumstances and Opportunities

The circumstances surrounding the crash may also encourage hit-and-runs. Time of day, the presence of available witnesses, and the actual location of the crash can all serve as determinant factors for a driver’s course of action. If a driver evaluates the probability of being caught as drastically low, the driver will be much more inclined to flee.


The psychology of hit-and-run is varied and complex. Fleeing the scene of an accident could be due to fear, panic reactions, or conscious actions aimed at evading responsibility.

The reasons range from fear to panic and conscious reactions to avoid consequences. Understanding these psychological factors can help come up with strategies to reduce hit-and-runs and foster road safety for all.

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