Are Hit-and-Run Accidents on the Rise in Central Florida?

August 13, 2014

The month of August started on a somber note when it was reported that 12-year-old Natalia Leonard was killed in a hit-and-run crash. Now, Natalia’s family wants justice for the wrongful death of their baby.

While riding on her bike near her father’s home, a car driven by Geraldo Rivera turned right on to 15th street and struck her. The car dragged her 200 feet. Afterwards, Rivera fled the scene.

Unfortunately, according to 10 News, this is the second hit-and-run fatality in less than two weeks, which has prompted concerns that these accidents are on the rise.

How Many Hit-and-Run Accidents Occur in Central Florida?

A spokesperson with the Florida Highway Patrol says that hit-and-run accidents have become more common everyday in Central Florida counties. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the representative said, “Five years ago, (they) worked 10 to 12 hit-and-runs a day. Now, it’s 20 to 25 a day.”

In 2011, there were 162 fatal hit-and-runs and in 2012, there were 168 deaths. Interestingly, the most common reason for fleeing a scene after crashing with another vehicle is impairment with alcohol and drugs.

A Local 6 report says that many people believe that there is not enough of a deterrent for people who decide to flee a scene after causing an accident. In 2012, hit-and-run convictions resulted in sentences averaging less than eight years of imprisonment.

These short sentences are given even though there is a Florida law that increases the penalty for a person involved in a fatal hit-and-run. The Justin McWilliams Act permits sentences up to 30 years for these types of accidents. Clearly, this law is being underutilized.


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