On Tuesday, April 19, Florida Governor Rick Scott officially signed Chloe’s Law – House Bill 7061 & Senate Bill 522 – into legislation.
Drafted after the death of former University of Central Florida student Chloe Arenas, the bill will require the Florida Department of Transportation to install more barriers along bodies of water on state roads where deaths have occurred between the years 2006 and 2016, after an FDOT evaluation.
On March 11, the Florida House of Representatives and Florida Senate approved the 6-month-old bill, sailing its passing by a 117-2 vote in the House and a 39-1 vote in the Senate. Bipartisan support contributed to the speedy process, with the original idea coming to fruition in June of 2015, official filing occurring in several months later in October, congressional approval in March 2016 and executive approval coming in April.
The week of the tragic accident, Arenas’ lifelong best friend, Clarissa Lindsey, sought to prevent future deaths in the state of Florida by requiring barriers on dangerous roads.
News stations throughout the state – the Tampa Bay Times, Univision, Fox 35, the Miami New Times, and more – and stations in other U.S. regions covered the story, referencing Florida’s current position as the most dangerous state for drivers who drown in vehicles, leading the state with the second-most vehicular drownings nearly two-fold.
State Senator Darren Soto and House Representative Rene Placensia sponsored the piece of legislature, working closely with Lindsey on reaching the final draft.
The UCF community received praise from the Soto after the announcement, where the state senator talked at length to acknowledge classmates who reached out following the death of a former student.
“I would like to thank all of our UCF students including Clarissa Lindsey and Student Government Legislative Affairs Coordinator Tyler Yeargain for their passionate advocacy leading to the passing of Chloe’s Law,” said Soto in a press release.
House Representative Placensia agreed.
“No parent should ever have to bury their child. With Chloe’s Law’s passage, we can begin to take steps necessary to ensure Florida has the safest roadways. It was an honor to work with both chambers in a bi-partisan effort to ensure this law’s passage,” Placensia said.
Now that Scott has signed the bill, it will be adopted by the state on July, 1, 2016.
Knight News has worked with Chloe’s close friends and family from the day of the event, breaking news of the legislative declaration, through its entirety. House Representative Rene Placensia and Senator Darren Soto have led the process, working with Knight News along the way. Both congressmen have been reached for public comment.
A copy of the bill and timeline of progression will be published upon release.
The Society of Professional Journalists granted a Mark of Excellence for coverage of the legislative journey.
Faced with the death of a loved one, when UCF student Chloe Arenas tragically lost her life in a retention-pond crash, family and friends of the 21-year-old have begun the journey of proposing legislation that would prevent loss of life in identical, future accidents.
Sunday, June 28 saw the biomedical-sciences student leave her friend’s house at 4 a.m. to pick up her mother and grandmother for a trip to Nicaragua.
An hour later, she would abruptly lose control of her Hyundai when approaching the 408 exit ramp onto N. Alafaya Trail, leading the car to plunge into a retention-pond across the interchange. Tow trucks arrived at the scene to assist emergency vehicles in the retrieval but were unable to recover the car in time.
Taking charge of the proposal is Clarissa Lindsey, Arenas’ best friend since they were two years old.
The Arenas family held a memorial service for their loved one on Friday, July 3 where family and close friends honored Chloe’s life. At the service, Lindsey and the Arenas family made public their journey to proposing a law in tribute to their Knight – Chloe’s Law.
“Chloe’s law aims to require the implementation of guard rails along dangerous bodies of water that accompany road ways in Florida,” Lindsey said. “This is an ongoing issue in Florida, being that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that Florida is the most dangerous place in the nation regarding victims who drown in submerged vehicles.”
In 2011, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reviewed crash data and death records from 2004 to 2007 and concluded that Florida averaged 57 deaths by drownings in those years, with 384 deaths occurring nationwide.
The Orlando Sentinel continued a review of the federal crash data, surveying records from 2008 to 2012, finding that Florida again topped the nation with 49 drownings inside vehicles during the five-year period. Texas came in a distant second with 18 deaths followed by Indiana with 14 deaths, and Louisiana and Arizona with 10 deaths in each state, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
Arenas began classes at UCF in the summer of 2012 and enrolled in courses at Valencia College on a path of becoming a veterinarian.
Driven by a passion for zoo and domestic animals, she could be seen caring for many, including her bearded dragon, dog and a cat that she found alongside a road, with dreams of one day treating elephants in Africa.
“Though I am confident that this law will save many lives, it will be a success if we are able to save only one,” Lindsey said.
“The next step in the process is to finish the research and completion of the first draft of the policy proposal. I plan to seek out House representatives and senators in support of this beneficial and necessary bill.”
A Change.org petition has been made in support of the proposed bill.
Photo courtesy of Clarissa Lindsey