When you're basically told you're on your own.
On Tuesday, July 3 at approximately 6 p.m. in the sandy beach parking lot near the intersection of Seacrest Drive and A1A in Ormond-By-the-Sea, an unknown man in a silver SUV strikes my rear driver's side door in an attempt to back out into the street.
He exits his vehicle and observes the damage to my car. He sees that he caused a foot long dent and likely notices the pieces of his broken tail light littering the sand, some of which are still stuck to my car. He then proceeds to get back into his SUV and drives south toward Ormond Beach.
He leaves the scene.
Cut to approximately one hour later, when my friend Vanessa and I return from a relaxing late afternoon at the beach and take in the significant damage now decorating my poor car. Of course, my first instinct is to call 911. After all, this isn't my first accident.
But it is the first one where I have no idea who caused the accident.
I'm on the phone for a total of three minutes, basically the time 911 takes to transfer me to Florida Highway Patrol. The dispatcher quickly tells me that because I didn't see who hit me, FHP would not respond to my call for help. "Too bad, so sad," can sum up the end result of that call.
I know now that this was a violation of their own policies. FHP Policy no. 17.04.07, section D, regarding investigative and reporting responsibilities, states that members shall respond to, investigate and document all crashes involving a violation of Section 316.027, 316.061 or 316.193 in the Florida Statute.
Curious thing that 316.061 explicitly mentions crashes involving damage to a vehicle or property and talks about how anyone who leaves the scene of a crash has committed a second-degree misdemeanor, which can result in up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
The whole situation frustrates me. The only reason I know what kind of vehicle hit me is because while I was calling 911, my friend Vanessa went up the street to the nearby Crabby Chris Beachside BBQ to ask if anyone had seen anything. Thanks to her quick thinking, and Crabby Chris, I was able to obtain a copy of the surveillance video from inside the restaurant that shows how the accident played out.
Unfortunately, I can't read the vehicle's license plate.
I'm aggravated. I'm tired. And this is not my job.
Not everyone is a reporter, and not everyone has a quick thinking friend like Vanessa. It makes me think about all the people out there who may have gone through the same ordeal and were also brushed off by FHP. By not responding to the scene, I felt like I was being told that I was on my own.
That this was not an FHP problem, but my problem.
The driver could have waited for me to come back. He could've also walked back to the beach and asked the three groups of people in the immediate area if that was their car. At the bare minimum, he could've left a note.
Instead, I fear he's going to get away with it. He likely will. And that's not only both frustrating and aggravating — it's unfair.
On Monday, July 9, I called FHP to tell them what I was able to dig up on my own. I made contact with a trooper early Wednesday morning and made plans to meet at the scene of the accident later this week. I guess we'll see what happens.
Updated at 8:31 Wednesday to show that FHP contacted me shortly after the publication of this column.