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It’s an almost impossible scenario for most people to fathom: striking a person with your vehicle and fleeing, leaving them there to die. Yet, the Florida hit-and-run fatality rate jumped 18% from 2019 to 2020 according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FHSMV). Department data revealed pedestrians and bicyclists to be at the highest risk, making up nearly 64% of these fatalities.
FHSMV launched an awareness campaign this week aimed at reducing the number of incidents in 2021 and beyond. The department’s top goal is to get drivers to stay at the scene when a collision occurs.
There were 254 hit-and-run fatalities in Florida in 2020, an increase of over 18% from the past year. Prior to 2020 from year to year, Florida has seen the amount of hit-and-run crashes remain steady, with nearly 25 percent of all crashes involving a hit-and-run. However, the number of hit-and-run crashes in all traffic fatalities has been staggering even before 2020. In Florida, between 2015 and 2020, there were 600,185 hit-and-run crashes that resulted in 1,298 traffic fatalities.
Florida Law regarding accident scenes
Florida law states that a driver must immediately stop at the scene of any crash that results in property damage, injury or death. If no significant injury or property damage is sustained, the drivers involved must gather names, driver’s license, insurance and tag information then file a report online. Drivers convicted of leaving the scene of an accident will be charged with a felony and have their licenses revoked for at least three years. Additionally, offenders can face a minimum sentence of four years in prison.
The FHMSV’s Stay at the Scene campaign aims to reduce the number of hit-and-run crashes in Florida by educating drivers on their responsibilities if involved in a crash and the serious consequences they face if they choose not to Stay at the Scene.
According to FHMSV, the penalties for hit-and-run drivers changed on July 1, 2014 when the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act (section 316.027, Florida Statutes) was signed into Florida law. The statute is named after Aaron Cohen, a 31-year-old avid cyclist and father of two that was fatally struck by an alcohol impaired driver that fled the crash scene in February 2012. The hit-and-run driver was sentenced to two years in prison, a lesser sentence than what the motorist would have served had he been sentenced on a DUI manslaughter charge. The Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act imposes a mandatory minimum of four years for a driver convicted of leaving the scene of a crash resulting in a fatality.