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Likeliest site for hit-and-run accident? Parking lot

SALT LAKE CITY — A new study suggests your car is more likely to be involved in a hit-and-run accident at the mall or the grocery store than on the freeway.

According to the study by Allstate Insurance, 73 percent of all hit-and-run accidents in Salt Lake City in 2009 involved a parked vehicle. The national average was 69 percent.

In Salt Lake, 216 Allstate customers filed claims in 2009 that their vehicles were hit while parked — out of a total of nearly 300 hit-and-run accidents. A hit-and-run claim could range anywhere from a someone smashing into the side of a parked car and taking off, or just a door ding.

In several states, including Utah, hitting a parked vehicle and leaving without leaving contact information on the damaged car's windshield is a crime.

"(The study results) surprised me. I would have thought more folks would have left a note knowing it's the law," said Allstate representative Melinda Wilson.

It is a class B misdemeanor in Utah to hit a parked vehicle and drive off without attempting to notify the vehicle owner about what happened.

"I don't think people realize how big of an offense it is," said Salt Lake Police Sgt. Robin Snyder.

Based on his experience, local Allstate agent Adam Ware said shopping mall, grocery store and big box retailer outlets see mostly door ding types of hit-and-runs, while residential streets or driveways see more serious types of hit-and-run crashes.

Sandy police, who patrol a city with several big box stores as well as the South Towne Mall, have seen a number of hit-and-run violations in their parking lots. There were 57 hit-and-run accidents out of nearly 300 at places such as South Towne Center, Walmart, Century Theater, Jordan Commons and Target.

According to Utah law, a driver who hits an unoccupied vehicle has to either find the owner or "attach securely in a conspicuous place on the vehicle or other property a written notice giving the operator's name, address and the registration number."

"It's not worth it to leave the scene of an accident because the consequences will be worse when they catch you. If you stay, it may ultimately result in your insurance rate going up. But it's better than having a criminal charge in addition," Snyder said. "Traffic accident investigators are very good at what they do. They will find you."

e-mail: preavy@desnews.com