The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that nationally, from 2003 to 2006, one out of every eight accidents was a hit-and-run; however, some regions of the country exceeded the national average.

The South had more than one million reported hit-and-run crashes, making it number one nationwide. The Midwest ranked second with over 835,000 reported incidents. California received state honors for having one of the highest rates of hit-and-run accidents in the nation.

If you are the victim of a hit-and-run, it doesn’t matter where your region ranked on NHTSA’s survey. What is important is that you aren’t victimized twice because you aren’t prepared for the financial consequences. In a hit-and-run accident, you become responsible for all the expenses associated with medical care, car repairs and replacement car rental that normally would have been covered by the at-fault driver’s auto insurance carrier.

That’s why the Insurance Information Institute recommends that you purchase Uninsured Motorist coverage, if not already required in your state. Since being involved in a hit-and-run accident is essentially the same as being in one with an uninsured driver, uninsured motorist coverage will pay the costs resulting from the accident.

Also consider that some auto insurance companies don’t necessarily cover the cost of a replacement rental car, even if a hit-and-run driver damaged yours. So it makes sense to add replacement rental car coverage to your auto policy because it typically costs less per year than the average daily rate for most rental cars.

While having proper insurance protection is important if you are involved in a hit-and-run, the best strategy is to avoid being a victim in the first place. Here are some simple tips to remember:

  • If you have to stop on the highway, be safe -- Stop on the right shoulder. Stopping on the left side will increase your chances of being involved in an accident by 80 percent.
  • Carry flares or triangles in your trunk -- Use these to mark your location once you come to a stop on the side of the road. You should also put on your hazard lights. Emergency flashers, used in conjunction with flares/triangles, are an effective way of giving other drivers advance warning of your location. Flares/triangles can also act as a backup if flashers become inoperable in the event of a failure in your car’s electrical system.
  • Become a member of an emergency roadside service -- Although you may have to wait as long as an hour for assistance, it is preferable to trying to fix the problem yourself. Working on your vehicle in high traffic or where oncoming motorists may not see you is asking for trouble.
  • Maintain your car -- Tire blowouts are a common reason vehicles become inoperable. Always keep your tires inflated according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Check your tires periodically for wear and tear, cuts, or abrasions that could cause the tire to deflate while you are driving.