The month of February has been declared Hit-and-Run Awareness Month by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV). Along with the Florida Highway Patrol, the DHSMV is encouraging all motorists to stay at the scene of an accident if they are involved in a crash.

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The statewide initiative is meant to reduce the number of hit-and-run crashes in Florida and to encourage those who have witnessed a hit-and-run be able to anonymously report information to help solve these type of crimes.

Florida has seen the amount of hit-and-run crashes remain steady over the years, with nearly 25 percent of all crashes involving a hit-and-run. While many of these hit-and-run accidents result in only property damage, some can be deadly.

The penalties for a hit-and-run changed drastically in July 1, 2014, after the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act was signed into law. This law is named after Aaron Cohen, a 31-year-old Florida man who was a father of two and an active cyclist. He was hit by a motorist who was under the influence of alcohol in February 2012. The driver fled the scene after hitting Cohen but was later found and sentenced to just two years in prison. Had the intoxicated driver been sentenced to a DUI manslaughter charge, he would have served a significantly longer period of time.

Under the new Florida Law, Section 316.027 of the Florida Statutes, the mandatory minimum sentence is four years for a driver who is convicted of leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in a death.

A driver who causes property damage and leaves the scene of the accident can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor and can serve up to 60 days in prison with a $500 fine. If injuries were sustained in a hit-and-run accident, the driver can be charged with a second or third-degree felony, which can result in the driver’s license being revoked for at least three years and the driver serving up to five years in prison, along with a $5,000 fine. If a fatality results from the hit-and-run, the driver can be charged with a first degree felony. The driver’s license can be revoked for a period of at least three years, and the penalty comes along with a mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison, up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

The DHSMV reports that, since 2014, in one-fourth of all crashes reported annually, a driver left the scene of the accident. In 2017, 98,225 hit-and-run accidents occurred in the State of Florida with 177 fatalities. Of these fatalities, over 100 cases involved bicyclists or pedestrians. In this period of time, 95 percent of the drivers who left the scene of the accident were in-state drivers. Seventy percent of those drivers who left the scene were male.

“All motorists involved in a crash have the responsibility to stay at the scene,” said DHSMV Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes in a press release. “Leaving the scene of a crash may be deadly for those who are hit and ensures that the driver will face more severe penalties. Individuals with information on hit and run crashes are encouraged to report any tips anonymously to Crime Stoppers.”

Hit-and-run accidents can be reported easily through a driver’s cell phone. Drivers can report hit- and-run crashes by dialing *FHP (*347).

If you or a loved one have been a victim of a hit-and-run accident, it is important you contact an Orlando hit-and-run accident attorney immediately to help you file a claim. The law firm of Michael T. Gibson, P.A. is dedicated to protecting the rights of those involved in automobile accidents and will fight aggressively on your behalf to obtain the compensation you deserve following a hit-and-run accident. We can help you obtain compensation for medical bills, future medical treatment, property damage, loss of wages, pain and suffering, etc. Feel free to fill out our quick contact form on our website to discuss your legal options in greater detail.