After sixth period on Oct. 20, junior Vivian Luo stepped into the junior parking lot located near the Sports Plaza, walking in the direction of her usual parking space.
As she approached her grey 2000 Honda Odyssey, she noticed a huge dent and multiple scratches on its side. Upset, she immediately looked for any of the driver’s contact information on her windshield, but found nothing.
“I was worried about what my parents would say, since there was no proof that somebody else did the damage,” Luo said. “Thank god my car still works.”
Why do hit-and-run incidents occur? In some cases, culprits are afraid of the consequences and choose to flee the scene without leaving any identification for the victim.
In this case, Luo never found the person who hit her car.
Nor did the administration. Though the school does have security cameras near the McAfee Center in the front lot, they were too far from the junior parking lot to film the incident.
By upgrading the school’s security system, the administration is hoping that crimes that occur in the front lot will be easier to solve especially with a color and HD displays and zoom features to capture detailed images.
Since her car is relatively old, Luo ended up not reporting it to her insurance company and deciding to live with the damage. Like other states, California requires drivers to stop and assess the amount of damage inflicted and the seriousness of any injuries in case of an accident. Failure to do so can result in a sentence of up to six months in county jail and a fine of $1,000.
Still, about 11 percent of all police reported crashes in California involve a driver leaving the scene, and 1,500 people are killed in hit-and-runs every year, Criminal Defense Incorporated says.
In the past, hit-and-runs have been rarer in affluent towns like Saratoga, yet in recent times this trend has begun to change.
Last May, Santa Clara County sheriff’s deputies arrested a driver wanted for a hit-and-run in Saratoga that left two dogs injured so severely they had to be euthanized.
In August, law enforcement reached out for help through the app Nextdoor to find the perpetrator of another hit-and-run incident who struck a skateboarder in the bike lane on Saratoga-Sunnyvale Road and immediately fled the scene.
Assistant principal Brian Safine said most of the time, students take responsibility for the damage their driving has caused in the school’s parking lots. But there have been exceptions, including what happened to senior Jonathan Yun last April.
Yun said he came back from lunch late one day so had to squeeze into a small parking space next to a huge red car. After school, when he was going to go home, Yun noticed a huge dent in the side of his car with red streaks, but found no note indicating who had hit his car.
Luckily, after asking around, Yun was able to solve the issue after he found the owner of the red car, who later paid for the damage done to Yun’s car.
Instances like Yun’s and Luo’s only occasionally happen in the school parking lot.
In hit-and-runs, Safine said, “People generally just didn't take accountability for what they did and if people feel like no one is watching them, they make the wrong decision.”
Safine urged students to do the right thing a leave a note or wait for the other driver if they’re involved in a parking lot fender bender.
For his part, Yun said damage to cars can always be fixed, but added, “What can’t be fixed is your criminal record.”