Broward News

Rick Scott Comes to South Florida to Sign Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act

For the some 70,000 people each year, it was already too late. But thanks to the push from some concerned citizens -- including a lot of South Floridians -- bike riders, pedestrians, and motorists struck by hit and run drivers will now have a little justice. And to mark the occasions, yesterday Gov. Rick Scott was in the region to pay his respects to one of the more high-profiles lives claimed by the disastrous hit-and-run loophole.

On Wednesday this week Scott held a ceremonial bill signing on the Rickenbacker Causeway. It was on this spot in February 2012 where 36-year-old married father of two Aaron Cohen was out for a morning ride with a friend when he was hit by Michele Traverso, homebound after an evening of drinking.

But in Florida, under the then-law, the penalty for fleeing a the scene of an accident involving death ran between 21 months to 30 years. Traverso did just that, only turning himself in to police the next day.

By then, it was impossible to make a drunk driving case against the 26-year-old In January 2013, he pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident involving death and leaving the scene of an accident involving serious injury.

To the shock and awe of Cohen's family and friends, Traverso only got less than a year in jail.

From there, activists and lawmakers began putting their heads together on a legislation that for hammer into place a mandatory-minimum four year sentence for anyone leaving the scene of an accident. But as we documented earlier this year, the push for tighter laws also highlighted scary statistics: how some three people in Florida were killed every week by hit and run.

The legislation -- which became known as the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act -- was the rare bit of bipartisan law passed in the last contentious session, sailing through both law-making bodies with no resistance. Technically, the law went into effect the first of July.

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Kyle Swenson
Contact: Kyle Swenson