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Bill ups punishment for leaving crash
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TALLAHASSEE – Gov. Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 102 June 24, which creates the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act relating to leaving the scene of an accident.

This bill increases the punishment for leaving the scene of a crash resulting in serious injury to a person. It imposes a mandatory minimum term for imprisonment of four years for a driver convicted of leaving the scene of a crash resulting in the death of a person. It 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. Finally, the bill imposes a minimum driver license revocation period of at least three years.

“The hearts and prayers of Ann and I go out to the Cohen family, and it’s in Aaron’s name that we hope to further protect Florida families with Senate Bill 102, which will create the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act,” Scott said a news release. “No one should have to suffer the loss of a loved one due to reckless driving, and with this important law, we’ll be more effective in protecting families.”

Patty Cohen, widow of Aaron Cohen, said, “The entire Cohen family and I are extremely thankful that Governor Scott will be signing the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act into law. We are hopeful that out of our family’s tragedy, we have made a big step towards safer roads and a safer community for our children. While nothing will bring Aaron back, it gives us comfort to know that the change we have made may prevent other families from suffering as ours did. We are incredibly honored to have this very important law in his name.”

Aaron Cohen died after a hit-and-run crash in 2012 on Rickenbacker Causeway, which connects Miami to nearby barrier islands.

Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, said, “As we share the road with bike riders and runners they deserve to feel safe. This bill eliminates the incentive for motorists to leave the scene of an accident, and I thank Governor Scott for his support in helping to protect victims of this terrible crime.”

Cohen was riding a bike at the time of the crash.

Tim Bustos, executive director of the Florida Bicycle Association said, "For too long now, Florida has had one of the highest bicycle and pedestrian crash rates in the nation, and an inordinate number of these crashes involve motorists that leave the scene of a crash without rendering aid or assistance. We are hopeful this new legislation will act as a deterrent for motorists who may otherwise leave the scene after causing a crash, and will act as an incentive to stay at the scene.”

Scott also signed HB 225 June 24, which revises child restraint requirements to increase the safety of children passengers in motor vehicles.

Current law requires every motor vehicle operator in Florida use a crash-tested, federally approved child restraint device for children 3 years or younger. HB 225 extends current requirements to include children 4 and 5 years old.

“As a father and grandfather, I know how important it is to make the safety of Florida’s children a top priority,” Scott said in a press release. “With this initiative, we are working to ensure our children travel safely and remain protected on the road. We will continue to do all we can to keep every Floridian safe, so they can enjoy everything our great state has to offer with their loved ones.”

Several local legislators added their support to the governor’s action.

“Governor Scott has proven his dedication to Florida families once again by signing this bill into law,” said Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater. “HB 225 will foster great changes to keep our young children safe and secure as they travel in our state.”

“As a father of three, the safety of my kids on the road is my top priority, said Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg. “This legislation is about common sense safety standards, and I thank Governor Scott for signing it into law to protect Florida’s children.”

Representative Ed Hooper said, “My fellow legislators and I stand with the Governor in his support and signing of HB225 to strengthen safety regulations for our children,” said Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater. “It is crucial that our children are protected with the proper restraint devices so they can travel without harm.”
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