Hit-and-run incidents represent a significant menace to traffic safety across much of the nation. With the potential to result in fatalities while perpetrators evade accountability, these incidents underscore broader concerns about urban traffic safety and offer insights into the prevailing car culture.

In 2023, Louisville saw its total hit-and-runs increase by 71% compared to 2022. This is a worrying increase, but this is also a return to the pre-COVID level of collisions. It indicates a lack of progress over the course of a decade, and would indicate much worse if the trend continues. As of 2024, the city has already experienced 510 hit-and-run incidents. If these incidents persist at the current rate, the projected year-end total would reach approximately 3,500, though it seems improbable that this upward trend will continue unabated.

graph showing hit-and-runs in Louisville between 2014 and 2023
Hit-and-Runs in Louisville 2014-2023

The most dangerous roads here fit a similar trend to the most dangerous roads in my previous post about bike safety. Larger, multi-lane, high-speed stroads tend to have the most collisions. These roads also are usually the longest, to be fair, so they naturally tend to have the most collisions. There are some exceptions to this trend: Taylorsville is the longest non-expressway road in the city and is pretty low on the list given its length. Most of the accidents on Taylorsville occur in the northern, 4-lane sections and few occur in the 2-lane section. Some of this can just be attributed to traffic volume, but design can also play an important role.

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Surprisingly, the Russell neighborhood emerges as the most perilous area for hit-and-run injuries. With nearly double the injuries compared to the second-place neighborhood (Portland), Russell also shares the highest fatality rate and ranks second in total collisions. This can likely be attributed to a few things: Broadway and 264, two of the most dangerous sections of road, run through Russell. Only one hit-and-run actually occurred on 264, though, the rest occurred right of the exit ramps. Additionally, the prevalence of one-way streets in the neighborhood contributes to its heightened risk profile, as such streets are often associated with increased speed. Russell generally does not have as much traffic safety infrastructure as east end neighborhoods, lacking mature street trees lining the road and other traffic calming measures. However, initiatives like Reimagine 9th Street could potentially address some of these deficiencies.

Intersections are prime locations for hit-and-run incidents to take place. Despite suburban neighborhoods typically having fewer intersections compared to urban grids, they often exhibit a higher proportion of hit-and-runs occurring at these junctions. This pattern extends to overall collision rates as well. Among areas with more than 25 total collisions, Okolona, certain areas of PRP (Pleasure Ridge Park), Valley Station, Buechel, and Highview stand out for their elevated rates of hit-and-runs at intersections. In these neighborhoods, over a third of hit-and-runs occur at intersections, contrasting with a quarter of downtown collisions occurring in similar settings.

Hit-and-run incidents serve as a direct critique of both traffic safety and the prevailing automobile culture within a city. In Louisville, the lack of improvement over the past decade is evident from ongoing trends. Wide, high-speed roads stand out as the main contributors to this issue, particularly those lacking any form of traffic calming infrastructure. 

However, there is a silver lining: these expansive roads present an opportunity for implementing various traffic calming measures. Whether it's through road diets, bump-outs, street trees, or other options, there is ample space for interventions that can enhance safety and mitigate the incidence of hit-and-runs. The city has also been working on a significant amount of traffic calming projects on roads that are major sources of collisions, such as Bardstown Road, which have seen some promising early results. Other major calming projects are in the works, pushed forward by Vision Zero and local organizations such as Streets for People. The one-way conversions taking place for many roads across the city, such as 2nd and 3rd Streets, will also help to reverse the current trends.