Atlanta, GA

Hit and Run Fatalities Are on The Rise in Georgia

Bebe Nicholson

A 25-year-old Georgia man and his dog are killed after being hit by a car.
Michael Farmer (left) and Dominique Houston (right)Sandy Springs Police Photo

Michael Farmer, 25, was walking his dog Bruce on a cool spring evening in Georgia when he became the tragic victim of a hit and run. Both Michael and his dog were killed as the driver of a white sedan allegedly fled the scene.

Police later apprehended Dominique Houston, 38, and initial police reports say the suspect was involved in another hit and run crash moments before Farmer and his dog were run over.

Farmer’s death reflects a growing trend, with hit and runs becoming increasingly common, according to research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The AAA statistics show that hit and run deaths have increased by an average of 7.2 percent each year since 2009, with growth far outpacing the percentage of changes in traffic fatalities overall.

Georgia is no exception. A hit and run involving my niece’s aunt, Judge Emily Powell, was another accident with a tragic outcome.

In December of 2019, Judge Powell, a Georgia Senior Magistrate Judge, was crossing the street around 6 p.m. to meet some of her friends when she was struck by a truck. The driver left the scene and Judge Powell later died of her injuries.
Judge Emily PowellGwinnett County Police Department

The pandemic that led to lockdowns and lighter traffic began just months after Judge Powell’s death, but lighter traffic did little to stem the growing danger of hit and runs.

In early April of this year, Atlanta police released horrifying dashcam footage of a fatal hit and run in the Buckhead area of Atlanta.

According to Jamie Kennedy, a reporter for WGCL-TV, a 911 caller who witnessed the Buckhead hit and run said, “He went so fast, he hit that guy and the guy just like flew in the air.”

Police identified the victim as 28-year-old Ethan McCallister. The Georgia Tech graduate was hit by a gray Jeep Grand Cherokee as he crossed the street, according to witnesses.
Buckhead skyline:Wikipedia

In yet another fatality, Atlanta Police are searching for suspects in a hit and run that happened days before the Buckhead death. Raley Morris, 28, was killed when the car he was driving was clipped by another vehicle.

While other motorists tried to aid Morris, the driver of the Impala that hit him stopped and came back, then allegedly rummaged through the wrecked car. A GoFundMe started for Morris alleges that a handgun, Rolex watch and Cartier bracelet were taken.

Drivers are more likely to flee a crash that results in the death of a pedestrian or cyclist as opposed to a vehicle occupant simply because a car is much less likely to still be drivable after a severe crash, according to AAA.

Georgia Hit and Run Laws

Under Georgia hit and run laws, if you are involved in a collision while driving your vehicle, you must stop or return to the scene of the accident.

Once stopped at the scene, the driver has the responsibility to give their name, address, vehicle registration number, show their operator’s license, render reasonable assistance, remain at the scene and avoid obstructing traffic as much as possible.

Georgia statistics show that 86% of hit and run drivers were male and 14% female. Over half of hit and run drivers were under 25 years old. A majority who fled the scene caused property damage only, while 11% involved injury and 1% were fatal.

Forty two percent of hit and run drivers were under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and 16% did not have adequate driver’s license or insurance.

In Georgia, if an individual fails to stop at the scene of an accident that causes a non-serious injury to another, they are guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $300-$1000 and/or imprisonment of up to 12 months.

Anyone who fails to comply and who causes the serious death or injury of another person is guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment for a minimum of one year up to five years.

In the Sandy Springs hit and run, police charged Dominique Houston of Newnan with multiple counts, including first-degree vehicular homicide.

A Fulton County Superior Court Judge later granted Houston an unsecured judicial release, according to court records, and she was released from the Fulton jail the following day.

Farmer was "a Good Man, a Coach, a Leader"

Friends said Farmer was a rugby coach in the north Fulton area, coaching high school-aged players for the Rebels Rugby club out of Roswell.

“He was 25, a Rugby man, a good man, a coach, a leader of young Rebels,” the organization wrote in a Facebook post. “He will be greatly missed by the Rebels Rugby family.”

Hit and runs are notoriously hard to resolve. According to AAA, only about half of such collisions lead to a driver being identified and charged with a crime.

The crashes often happen at night, when visibility is limited. And there are often no direct eyewitnesses, or none who have contacted investigators.

My own first-hand experience with a hit and run didn’t result in injuries, but it was sudden and shocking. A car ran a red light at a crossroads, smacking into my van. The other driver barreled off without slowing down, even though both vehicles were damaged by the impact. No one was ever apprehended.

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I've worked as editor, newspaper reporter, freelance writer, and book publisher. My writing includes lifestyle, humor, travel, relationship, family, politics, faith and health articles, along with three published books. In my various careers, I've been a journalist, retail manager, nonprofit director, flight attendant, freelancer and mom. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Medium.

Alpharetta, GA

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