Four months after a University of Central Florida student drowned after crashing into a retention pond, state lawmakers are moving forward with a bill named after Chloe Arenas.
Lawmakers said the legislation, dubbed "Chloe's Law," was long overdue, and hundreds of Floridians have died from drowning-related traffic incidents just like Chloe did in June.
Chloe was on her way to the airport to pick up her mother and grandmother, when she lost control of her car on the State Road 408 exit ramp on North Alafaya Trail and crashed into a retention pond. An autopsy determined the 21-year-old died from drowning and was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Chloe's family, along with lawmakers, said having a guardrail between the water and the road could have saved her life.
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State lawmakers said Chloe's death represents a real tragedy in Florida, and it's time to make some serious changes to our roadways.
Data shows Florida leads the nation in the number of drowning-related traffic accidents, and lawmakers backing the new bill said guardrails are the solution.
"The current regulations are not doing the job," said Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando.
"With any tragedy, we try to figure out what we could have done to prevent that, so that other citizens of our state don't have to go through what the Arenas family and friends have gone through," said state Rep. Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando.
Chloe Arenas' car is removed from the retention pond where she crashed in June 2015.
Chloe's family and friends said they want something good to come to her tragic death. Her best friend, Clarissa Lindsey, started a change.org petition for "Chloe's Law" soon after she was laid to rest.
Nearly 57,000 signatures later, the attention spurred lawmakers to put pen to policy, and they plan to present Chloe's Law during the Florida Legislature's January session.
"I'm aware and prepared that it may take years," Lindsey said. "I think that's better than anything, because in the end, I'm confident that we will save hundreds of lives."
- View draft of "Chloe's Law" (.docx)
Meanwhile, opponents were quick to point out a road improvement project of this size could be costly. So, lawmakers said they first want to fund guardrails at known sites of drowning deaths, like the site where Chloe died.
"First, it will require us to put guardrails or setbacks in any areas over the past 10 years, where we have lost Floridians, motorists, who are driving on state highways," Soto explained.
An appropriations committee is working to come up with the exact cost of that project. Meanwhile, family and friends continue to push for this legislature in hopes of saving more lives.
"I'll do anything I can in her legacy and her honor," Lindsey said.
The Florida Department of Transportation is conducting a study on drowning-related deaths.
Lawmakers are also looking at laws in other states to see how they regulate roadways next to bodies of water.