FHP: 181 hit-and-runs in St. Johns County this year

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Back-to-back hit and runs in St. Johns County this weekend are the latest in what seems like a string of hit-and-runs for the county.

Two more families have become victims of pedestrian hit-and-runs in St. Johns County over the weekend. According to police, a motorcyclist was killed in a hit and run on U.S. 1 near King Street Friday morning.

On Saturday, a 53-year-old man police believe may have been lying on the edge of a roadway in Hastings was killed in a hit and run near the 400 block Federal Point Road.

"There's really something that we need to do to stop it. I don't understand why people feel like it's okay to cause damage like this and just leave," said Jo-Lee Manning.

Manning lost her daughter Haley Smith, 15, last November when a car struck and killed her while she was walking along Kenton Morrison Road. The driver is still at large.

"For them just to leave her there you know and not stop and help her, that's so wrong, you know. We don't know what she could have been in life or what she could have done and accomplished, you know, how many people could she have helped, so I feel like that's why I have to do this," said Manning.

The St. Johns County Sheriff's Office says there have been 123 hit and run accidents, including parking lot and minor incidents, in the last six months.

In 2013, there were nearly 300 hit and runs in St. Johns County. 14 of those resulted in arrests while 108 were referred to other agencies.

The Florida Highway Patrol reports working 1,605 hit-and-run accidents in the St. Augustine and St. Johns County area in 2013. This year, they have worked 181 so far.

Manning is now joining an ongoing petition asking legislators to initiate a state-wide Cold Case Task Force where a database listing all unsolved homicides would allow experts from review teams to analyze cases and offer suggestions and ideas to solve these cases.

"I think any time you can have other sets of eyes looking at evidence and things that it would increase the likelihood that it could be solved maybe other agencies see something that you're missing or know something that you don't," added Manning.

She's also joined the movement for tougher hit-and-run laws in Florida. The Aaron Cohen Life Protection bill in the Florida Legislature would add a mandatory minimum prison sentence of four years for anyone leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in a death.

Florida law currently has a minimum sentence of 21 months in prison as a penalty to drivers who leave the scene of an accident involving a death. The bill would make it the same sentence as DUI manslaughter.

If passed by the Florida House it would go into effect July 1.

To learn more about the bill, click here.

To learn more about the Unsolved Homicide Initiative petition, click here.

More hit-and-run stats from FHP:

Preliminary 2013:

Total crashes: 78,396

Total crashes with fatalities: 149

Total fatalities: 154


Total crashes: 72,914

Total crashes with fatalities: 155

Total fatalities: 163


Total crashes: 65,682

Total crashes with fatalities: 153

Total fatalities: 163


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