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Leaving the Scene of an Auto Accident

Stay at the Scene

Under Florida law, the driver of any vehicle involved in a crash resulting only in damage to a vehicle or other property which is driven or attended by any person shall immediately stop such vehicle at the scene of such crash or as close thereto as possible, and shall forthwith return to, and in every event shall remain at, the scene of the crash until he or she has fulfilled the requirements of s. 316.062. Leaving the scene (or a hit and run) in a motor vehicle accident is a criminal offense. A conviction could result in misdemeanor or felony penalties, depending on whether the accident resulted in injury or death.

How common are hit and runs? According to the Miami Herald, figures released by the Florida Highway Patrol show hit-and-runs have been on the rise over the last four years. In 2013, there were 78,661 hit-and-run crashes in the state. In 2014, there were 85,241; in 2015, 94,456; in 2016, 99,004.

The data also showed that that Miami-Dade in 2016 had the most hit-and-run crashes in all of Florida’s 67 counties: 19,087. The runner-up was Broward with 11,993. The third county with the most hit-and-run crashes was Palm Beach with 7,694.

There are several reasons why someone may leave the scene of an accident including – the driver doesn’t have a valid driver license or insurance, they have an outstanding warrant, they have been drinking and driving or drugged driving, they were distracted by technology, or there were no witnesses. Unfortunately, it is tough to research because many hit-and-run drivers are never caught.

AAA Foundation analysis showed that approximately 11 percent of all police reported crashes involve a hit and run driver, which is especially alarming for pedestrians. “About 60 percent of the people killed in hit and run crashes are pedestrians,” said Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, adding that “1 in 5 pedestrian fatalities involve hit and run drivers.”

To discourage hit-and-run drivers, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a state law (The Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act – SB 102 & HB 183) that imposes a four-year mandatory-minimum prison sentence for drivers convicted of leaving the scene of a crash that kills someone. It also boosted the mandatory-minimum prison sentence from two years to four years for a DUI driver who leaves a fatal crash scene. The legislation also provides for a license revocation for three years and impose drivers ed requirements for those who leave a scene of an accident.

Unfortunately, this is still not enough as Palm Beach County parents learned after the death of their son. They want the Florida Legislature to act and plug a legal loophole, as a result of a prior ruling on “actual knowledge” by the Florida Supreme Court, that let the accused beat a charge of leaving the scene of an accident by simply saying he didn’t know he hit a person.

Florida Rep. Emily Slosberg said, “The interpretation of the current law encourages defendants to not take responsibility for their actions.” She also pledged to file a bill to address the issue.