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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida has been one of the deadliest states in the nation for cyclists, walkers and others for years.

Last year, Florida recorded about 70,000 hit-and-run crashes, injuring 17,000 people and killing 166.

Now, the death of popular triathlete Aaron Cohen in Miami is prompting new legislation targeting drivers who hit someone and leave the scene.

The 36-year-old Cohen, father of two young children, was riding his bike on a causeway last year when he was struck and killed by an alleged drunk driver. The driver sped away and did not turn himself in until the next day.

He was not charged with DUI and, as a result, was able to get a shorter sentence of one year in jail. Prosecutors had hoped to send him to prison for six years.

Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, R-Hialeah, thinks that's wrong.

He's co-sponsoring legislation that would increase penalties for hit-and-run drivers who hurt or kill cyclists, pedestrians and others on the side of the road.

"Nobody should be left on the side of the road. What you should do if something like that happens is stop your car and try to help them. Call 9-1-1 and do what's right. You've got to think that that could be one of your family members that just got hit."

The "Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act" would put hit-and-run drivers behind bars for a mandatory three years.

If the crash seriously hurts someone, the driver would get a minimum of seven years and 10 years if someone is killed.

The legislation would also revoke a person's driver's license for three years.

Rep. Gonzalez says those tough sentencing rules would likely change drivers' attitudes about leaving the scene of a crash because the penalties are harsher than DUI-related charges.

"It's got to be very painful to the family. So we figure we have to put something in place that won't just be a slap on the hand. That people will think about it twice before leaving the scene of an accident."

The bill would create a "Vulnerable Road User" category including cyclists, pedestrians, motorcyclists, road workers and police officers. Drivers who hit those road users and flee would face the mandatory minimum sentences.

Learn more about the act at aaroncohenlaw.org.

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