HENDRY COUNTY - The Hendry County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) is participating in a statewide hit-and-run crash awareness month with the theme of “Stay at the Scene.”
“If you get into a crash, stay there!” pleaded the HCSO, “Imagine if this was your child or loved one. Staying on scene and calling for help could save their life.”
Tragically, Florida statistics show 167, or 81 percent, of the 206 traffic crash fatalities last year were classified as hit-and-runs. As recently as last weekend, February 13, an 18-year-old Hendry County resident was killed in a hit-and-run crash, while jogging.
“In Florida, nearly 25 percent of all crashes involve a driver who flees the scene,” state officials from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
“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 HCSO explained in a public service announcement (PSA). “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 in central Florida.”
“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 HCSO PSA went on. “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.”
Drivers who commit hit-and-runs can now be charged with fines, have to pay for property damage, and may even be ordered to serve up to 60 days in prison. If a driver flees the scene after causing injuries, they may have their driver’s license revoked for up to three years, as well as face five years in prison, and have to pay a $5,000 fine. Those hit-and-run crashes that end up causing a fatality can receive 30 years behind bars, be fined $10,000, and also receive a three-year license revocation.
The HCSO hopes the “Stay at the Scene” campaign spreads the message, “If you are involved in a crash, stay at the scene and call for help. It’s not just the law, you could save a life.”
The HCSO urges everyone to report any information you have about a hit and run crash to your local Crime Stoppers. Visit flhsmv.gov/stayatthescene for more info.