Sometimes it takes a tragic event to raise public awareness and to spearhead the need for change. The death of Aaron Cohen was that tragic event, and the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act, is that change.
I remember posting about this terrible bicycle accident on Key Biscayne in 2012, and the hope for tougher penalties on drivers that leave the scene of an accident. Thanks to the courageous work of Aaron’s wife and others, that has become a reality. For those that may not recall, Aaron Cohen, an experienced cyclist and father of two young children, was doing what thousands of cyclists do every day-riding his bike on the Rickenbacker Causeway. However, a silver Honda driven by Michele Traverso struck and killed Aaron. Traverso, who was driving with a suspended license and was on probation for a drug offense fled the scene, drove home and covered his battered car with a tarp. He turned himself into police 18 hours later.
There was evidence to suggest Traverso had been drinking before the crash. But because he took off and waited to tell police, there was no way to be sure. Given the inability to prove Traverso had been drinking, he was sentenced to only 364 days in jail. Obviously,the sentence was less than it would have been had Traverso stayed on the scene and been found guilty of DUI manslaughter. Thus the need for change. Thanks to the help of many, the minimum mandatory sentence for those who leave the scene of an accident was raised to four years — the same as for DUI manslaughter.
Our firm specializes in representing those injured in bicycle accidents, and for this act we are grateful.
Gov. Rick Scott is likely to sign the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act into law later this month. It cannot come soon enough, given that in 2012, about 17,000 people were injured in hit-and-run crashes in Florida, and of that total, 166 died.