Florida Patrol Hoping to Curb Hit-and-Run Crashes

Almost 70,000 of them occurred statewide last year, causing 168 fatalities, and the problem is growing, Florida Highway Patrol officials recently announced.

The Florida Highway Patrol is asking spring breakers to be safe on the roads this month and warning them that the state has tough DUI laws. Enhanced enforcement, with special emphasis on impaired drivers, will be in effect throughout the month, FHP Director Col. David Brierton announced March 1.

The legal drinking age in Florida is 21, and it is illegal for a driver or passenger to possess an open alcoholic beverage container in a vehicle, either stopped or moving, according to the patrol's news release, which quoted 13 sheriffs and police chiefs throughout the state who said their departments are likewise focused on preventing impaired driving during the spring break period.

FHP recently announced that Florida's problem of hit-and-run crashes is bad and growing. There were 69,994 such crashes statewide in 2012, with 168 deaths -- six more fatalities than hit-and-run crashes in Florida caused the year before.

The patrol held news conferences to focus on victims of these crashes -- three of every five people who died in them in 2012 were pedestrians -- and applicable state laws. Leaving the scene of a crash involving a death is a first-degree felony with a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine. Even if no death occurs, drivers are required to stop and remain at the scene of a crash, exchange information, and "render reasonable assistance to any injured persons," according to FHP.

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