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Alcohol blamed for hit-and-run that killed Illinois student

It's hard to believe anyone could cause an accident and drive off, leaving behind an injured person. Illinois drivers are required to stop after an accident, contact authorities and provide assistance to victims. Drivers who flee break criminal laws.

A 19-year-old Winnetka woman was one of two Bard College students who died recently after being struck by a Jeep while walking along a road. A third student, injured in the late night pedestrian accident, was able to tell police what happened. The surviving student's details apparently helped lead authorities to the Jeep driver, who fled the scene.

Investigators found and arrested a 63-year-old woman, with a 2005 drunk driving conviction on her record. Police said the Jeep driver was intoxicated when she hit and killed the students. Charges included first-degree vehicular manslaughter and felony DWI.

Police did not reveal the details surrounding the woman's arrest or what the driver's blood alcohol content registered when tested. The defendant was released after posting bail.

Accident investigators often assume correctly that a driver who flees an accident scene is trying to hide something. A driver with a criminal past, a probation violation or an illegal activity like not having a driver's licenses or driving while drugged or drunk may feel that running from the law is a better option than facing charges. Some hit-and-run drivers get away, but witnesses' statements and evidence of vehicle damage often lead to an eventual arrest.

Drunk driving defendants also may face personal injury or wrongful death actions in civil court. It would be hard for a defendant to convince a jury that leaving an accident scene was anything but a negligent act.

When hit-and-run drivers cannot be found and held responsible for civil damage, it's possible for victims to make liability claims with their own insurers. Many drivers' policies include provisions for underinsured or uninsured motorists that would cover accidents and injuries involving drivers who disappear.

Source: Poughkeepsie Journal, "Update: DRIVER POSTS BAIL; Bard College plans private, midnight service in memory of students killed in drunken driving hit-and-run" Nina Schutzman, Feb. 01, 2014

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