Tallahassee, Florida – Florida has experienced an alarming increase in the number of fatal hit and run crashes during the last two years. The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is partnering with the Florida Sheriffs Association (FSA), the Florida Police Chiefs Association (FPCA), the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) to get the message out that fleeing the scene of an accident can result in tougher penalties.
Last year, the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act was signed into law by Governor Scott. The law enhances the penalties for leaving the scene of a crash. The campaign aims to reduce the number of hit and run crashes in Florida by educating drivers about their responsibilities if involved in a crash and the consequences they face if they leave a crash scene.
“There were more than 80,000 hit and run crashes in Florida last year, a seven percent increase from 2013. Leaving the scene makes the situation worse, not only for those who flee, but even more so for the victims left behind,” said DHSMV Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes. “It is crucial that all individuals involved in a crash, including witnesses to a crash, contact 911 and remain at the scene until help arrives. Every life matters and every second counts.”
What does Florida law say?
- As of July 2014, with the enactment of the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act, consequences of leaving the scene of a crash have been enhanced. The Act:
- Punishes leaving the scene of a crash resulting in serious bodily injury to a person as a second degree felony, rather than a third degree felony.
- Imposes a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of four years for a driver convicted of leaving the scene of a crash resulting in the death of a person.
- Increases the mandatory minimum term of imprisonment from two to four years for a driver convicted of leaving the scene of a crash resulting in the death of a person while driving under the influence (DUI).
- Imposes a minimum driver license revocation period of at least three years, and driver education requirements for leaving the scene of a crash.
- Ranks offenses for leaving the scene of a crash one level higher than specified in the Criminal Punishment Code if the victim of the offense was a “vulnerable road user” (such as a pedestrian, a bicyclist or a motorcyclist).
There are many reasons a person would leave the scene of a crash. Some of the most common reason are the driver is impaired, does not have insurance, a drivers license, driving a stolen vehicle, is a non U.S. citizen, or has an active warrant. However, there are times when a driver leaves the scene out of panic and fear.