On July 1, Chloe’s Law will take effect, requiring barriers to be placed alongside bodies of water that border dangerous roads in the state of Florida.
One year ago, on June 28, UCF student Chloe Arenas left her friend’s house at 4 a.m. to pick up her mother and grandmother for a family trip to Nicaragua. She would enter her car and say goodbye to her friends for the last time, taking to the FL 408 and abruptly losing control of her Hyundai when approaching the exit ramp onto N. Alafaya Trail, leading the car to plunge into a retention-pond across the interchange.
A longtime best friend of Arenas, Clarissa Lindsey began the journey of proposing legislation after the tragic accident to prevent further deaths from occurring. At Chloe’s memorial, Lindsey and the Arenas family announced their legislative journey.
“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 shortly after the announcement. “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.”
Not only would Lindsey find both a Florida House Representative and Senator, she would find bipartisan support throughout Florida’s congress.
State Senator Darren Soto and House Representative Rene Placensia sponsored the piece of legislature in early fall, working closely with Lindsey on reaching the final draft.
October of 2015 would see the bill officially filed into the legislative process and, only six months later, the bill would be approved. At the Orange County courthouse, both Soto and Placensia spoke on the progress of the bill, with the support of the UCF Student Government Association at their side.
The University of Central Florida Student Government Association’s speaker of the house Meghan Kircher and legislative affairs coordinator Tyler Yeargain were in attendance at the press conference to declare support for the congressmen and family of Arenas, as well as the UCF community, also noting the support Knights have shown for the cause.
On March 11, the Florida House of Representatives and Florida Senate gave the green-light to the half-year-old bill, sailing its passing by a 117-2 vote in the House and a 39-1 vote in the Senate. Executive approval followed in April, only one month later, after Florida Governor Rick Scott signed the bill in Tallahassee.
“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 once the bill received congressional approval.
In the Federal Highway Administration’s most recent Fatal Analysis Reporting System, a two-year period saw the loss of 60 Floridians. The years 2012 and 2013 had the Sunshine State top the list of occupants killed in submerged vehicle crashes with nearly two-fold the runner up, Louisiana, at 32 deaths. The data continued records reviewed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from 2008 to 2012 that showed Florida carrying 49 drownings inside vehicles during the five-year period.
The bill will require the Florida Department of Transportation to install barriers along bodies of water on state roads where deaths have occurred between the years 2006 and 2016, after an FDOT evaluation, a relief to the areas that see cars slide into 15-to-20-foot-deep ponds during stormy conditions.
Driven by a passion for zoo and domestic animals, Arenas – a biomedical sciences student – 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.
A dream Chloe will never realize, Lindsey, Soto and Placensia looked to honor the UCF student through the bill as well as honor the victims of past drownings.
As described by Senator Soto, the bill will now serve as the greatest contribution to Chloe’s memory.