South Florida is known as the hit-and-run capital of the country, and the Miami-Dade County Commission just passed a resolution to change this epidemic.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz, who is a cyclist and according to him has almost been hit four times in the last month, introduced the resolution. The stricter penalties would include seven years imprisonment for leaving the scene with injuries and 10 years if there is a death.
Right now, there is no minimum sentence.
Last year, a hit-and-run driver killed cyclist Aaron Cohen on the Rickenbacker Causeway, and served less than a year behind bars.
In 2010, there were 4,610 Florida cyclists who suffered non-fatal injuries when involved in motor vehicle crashes. According to the Department of Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, 76 bicyclists were killed.
In 2008, 17.4 percent of total nationwide bicycle accident fatalities took place in Florida.
When bicycles are on the road, they should be treated just like any other vehicle. Drivers have the responsibility of driving with caution around cyclists. Before making turns or switching lanes, be sure to check your surroundings, especially your blind spots. Bicycle accidents often involve some type of negligence on the part of the vehicle, such as:
- Driver inattention (failing to "see" the bicyclist)
- Aggressive driving, such as speeding
- Failing to yield to bicyclists in bike lanes
These safety precautions apply not only to sharing the road with bicycles, but motorcycles as well.
Bicyclists also have to show caution when riding on roadways with traffic. To make sure your ride is safe, follow these safety tips:
- Always wear a helmet. In the state of Florida, any rider under the age of 16 is required to wear a helmet.
- Learn the rules of the road. When riding a bicycle, it is important to remember that you must follow the rules of the road just like any other driver. This means stopping at stop signs, making drivers aware of an upcoming turn using hand signals and, if available, riding in the bike lane.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Avoid using cell phones, iPods or other devices that may distract you or limit your mobility on a bike. Also, beware of drivers who may be distracted themselves.
- If riding a bicycle at night, be sure it is equipped with the appropriate lights and reflectors.
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Source: NBC6, "Miami-Dade County Commissioners Pass Resolution Proposing Stricter Penalties For Hit-and-Run Drivers," April 2, 2013.