Mothers Against Drunk Driving has given Florida a 4-out-of-5 star rating for its drunk driving prevention efforts in recent years.
Drunk driving claims hundreds of lives annually in this state – 790 in 2013 and 818 in 2012. That’s approximately one-third of the total number of driving deaths in the Sunshine State. This is generally on-par with the national average, but there is evidence to suggest those figures may drop slightly in the years to come, given increased efforts at prevention.
Florida was among 19 states to be given a 4-out-of-5 rating. States with the lowest 1-out-of-5 rating included: Vermont, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Kentucky and Montana.
Among the positive prevention efforts Florida lawmakers have initiated:
- Requiring installation of ignition interlocks for first-time convicted drunk drivers who register a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.15 percent or higher. These dash-mounted devices prevent a vehicle from starting if the operator’s blood-alcohol level is above a pre-set limit. The device also monitors drivers blood-alcohol level periodically during each trip.
- In 2014, lawmakers expanded existing law to allow judges to impose ignition interlocks for first-time offenders with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or higher in lieu of a 10-day vehicle impounding. However, that penalty is not mandatory.
- Regular sobriety checkpoints are carried out at random intervals by various agencies throughout the state.
- No refusal operations are sometimes held that fast-track the warrant process in order compelling drivers who refuse to undergo blood-alcohol testing to have it done forcibly.
- Administrative license revocation that punishes intoxicated drivers through immediate confiscation of offenders’ driver’s licenses by arresting officers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration purports this practice reduces DUI deaths by as much as 9 percent.
- Drunk driving with a passenger under 18 is considered a form of child endangerment in Florida, which means drivers will face additional penalties for violating the law. Per F.S. 316.193(4), first-time offense carries up to nine months in jail, a maximum $2,000 fine and a mandatory six months of ignition interlock use. A second offense carries a one-year jail sentence, a fine of up to $4,000 and mandatory ignition interlock use for two years.
While all of these in concert do help drive down the number of drunk driving fatalities, the non-profit anti-drunk driving advocacy group says there is more Florida needs to do in order to maximize its efforts.
Specifically, advocates are pushing for mandatory DUI ignition interlock imposition for all first-time DUI offenders – not just those with a BAC of 0.15 percent or higher or at the judge’s discretion.
According to a December 2014 report by the Florida Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability, 50,400 drivers were arrested for DUI in the state in all of 2013. While the law does require some offenders to install interlock ignition devices, the office reported only half of those required actually do so.
A 2013 study indicated just 498 percent of DUI offenders installed the device as required following court-imposed revocation of license. That meant their driver’s licenses remained revoked, but older studies indicate more than half of those with suspended or revoked licenses continue to drive, at least some of the time.
Researchers found ignition interlocks do much to reduce recidivism rates while installed, but those rates climb once the devices are removed. However, they did find ignition interlock installation was more effective at reducing recidivism among DUI offenders than administratively suspending one’s license.
While our state has made strides in efforts to reduce DUI injuries and fatalities, there is still more work to do. Our Fort Myers DUI accident lawyers are committed to furthering this cause and to aiding victims in securing just compensation.
If you have been injured in a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
2015 Report to the Nation, January 2015, Mothers Against Drunk Driving
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Gonsalves v. Li – Retrial of Crash Case Following Errors, Jan. 24, 2015, Fort Myers Car Accident Lawyer Blog