An estimated 70 percent of hit-and-run accidents that occur in the United States involve a parked vehicle. This past weekend, my car became just another statistic.
Let me being by saying that I was not in my car at the time of the collision, nor was the damage major. That being said, someone hit my vehicle on Olney Street in Providence last Saturday afternoon and did not possess the common decency to leave a note.
After leaving my Hope Street destination and walking back to my car I could see fragments of plastic and shards of glass in the street by my car and I knew the forecast wasn’t good. My initial feeling was not one of anger or annoyance, but one of “oh well, I guess that’s my luck.”
The damage did not render my vehicle inoperable, but it did take my driver’s side mirror off entirely, which made driving—especially on the highway—slightly difficult and somewhat dangerous.
As I drove home with my shattered mirror sitting beside me in the passenger’s seat, I began to reevaluate the situation. There was no excuse for that individual to drive away without at least leaving a note. After all, they did break the law.
And so it was written
According to the “Duty on collision with unattended vehicle” section of Rhode Island’s Motor Vehicle Laws, the driver that struck my mirror had a responsibility to notify me of the offense.
The law reads in part:
“The driver of any vehicle which collides with another vehicle which is unattended and damage results to either vehicle shall immediately stop and shall then and there either locate and notify the operator or owner of the unattended vehicle of the name and address of the driver and owner of the vehicle striking the unattended vehicle or shall leave in a conspicuous place in or upon the unattended vehicle a notice written in the English language giving the name and address of the driver and of the owner of the vehicle doing the striking and a statement of the circumstances of the collision, and shall immediately give notice of the accident to a nearby office of local or state police. “
As you can see, the driver not only owed me a note identifying themselves, but according to the law, they were also required to explain to me the circumstances surrounding the collision. Not to mention, they were also supposed to alert nearby police.
I can understand not notifying law enforcement, but a brief note seems simple enough. I can honestly say that I would not care at all about the broken mirror if I had found a note.
Accidents are a part of life and at times, are unavoidable. For as commonplace as accidents are, it appears that decency and courtesy are far less routine.
Forget Rhode Island Motor Vehicle Laws, what about the natural law of human beings? The notion that individuals possess an inherent virtue of human reason—regardless of positive laws determined by the state.
Have we become that disconnected as a society that we no longer possess basic values? Has this “selfie” generation become so obsessed with themselves that the notion of solidarity is all but gone?
All this talk of virtue and civility reminds me of a quote from 20th Century American journalist and essayist H.L. Mencken:
“Don’t overestimate the decency of the human race.”
I would hate to think that I have overestimated the decency of my fellow men and women, but my faith is a little shaky at the moment.