Two years after the hit-and-run accident that killed cyclist Aaron Cohen was killed, the Florida Legislature passed a bill with tougher penalties for drivers who flee the scene.
Gov. Rick Scott signed the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act in Key Biscayne on Wednesday, with Cohen’s family in attendance.
“This happened a year and a half ago and the Legislature reacted,” says Gov. Scott. “They’ve increased the penalties so hopefully this won’t happen to somebody again. You can’t imagine how this would change somebody’s life.”
The bill was created after the driver who killed Cohen was sentenced to only 22 months.
One of the organizations sponsoring the bill is the Aaron Cohen Law Initiative. The initiative's founder, Mickey Witte, took that accident and sentence as a personal offense.
“As myself a cyclist, I feared for my life because I viewed that, as a society, if we say that is OK, that means there is no deterrent for people to run over cyclists and get away with a very paltry sentence,” says Witte.
The driver had been drinking before the accident that killed Cohen. But since he left the scene, there was not enough evidence to prove it.
Those hit-and-run penalties are now the same as a DUI manslaughter. Besides the minimum four years sentence, drivers will lose their license for three years.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose Diaz is another of the law’s sponsors.
He hopes to reduce speed, create one way passage roads and other safety measures that will protect cyclists and pedestrians in areas like Key Biscayne, South Bayshore drive and Brickell.
“We are looking for different funding to the proper widening and specialized lanes,” says Commissioner Diaz.
Aaron Cohen’s widow, Patty Cohen, also hopes this law will make roads safer for everybody.
She says the signing of the Life Protection Act is both a happy and sad day, but it will bring opportunities for South Florida’s roads to improve.
“While we are an outdoor active community it is not the safest place in the world to cycle,” says Cohen. “I think it’s got a long way to go but it’s every little step helps.”
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