TALLAHASSEE, Fla. A loophole in Florida law gives drunken drivers an incentive to run if they are in a fatal accident, but state lawmakers are closing in on hit and run drivers.
In 2012 there were more than 70 thousand hit and run accidents in Florida. Experts say a vast majority who flee have been drinking and go home to sober up. Helen Witty is with MADD. "80% of all hit-and-runs are DUI. And that's huge. We need to stop that."
Killing someone while driving drunk carries a four year minimum sentence in state prison. But there are no minimum sentences for someone who isn't drunk. Advocate Sally Matson says the discrepancy is a loophole being user far too often.
"People are able to leave the scene of a crash, go home and metabolize the alcohol, turn themselves in later, and the evidence is gone. There's no DUI"
Aaron Cohen was killed riding his bike on a Miami causeway. The driver fled, and later admitted he'd been drinking but prosecutors couldn't prove he was drunk. The death inspired State Sen. Miquel Diaz-de-la-Portia to file legislation. "I couldn't believe it. I mean I really couldn't imagine that the law would create an incentive for people to hit and run."
Bicyclist's and motorcyclist are backing the bill. In addition to a minimum penalty, the legislation defines a vulnerable person as someone who's not in a car, and ups the penalties by a notch if someone hits them and flees.
The legislation cleared a Senate Committee by a vote of 9-0. It has one more committee stop before it is ready for debate by the full Senate.
On average just over three people are killed by a hit and run driver every week here in Florida.