The Tallahassee Democrat reports that Rep. Dan Eagle (R-Cape Coral) was recently arrested for DUI in Tallahassee, after authorities say he ran a red light around 2 a.m., shortly after running over several curbs while attempting a U-turn. He would later say his vehicle smelled like alcohol because he had just left a bar, though he denied drinking.
That incident follows another high-profile DUI case linked to Lee County, involving an Estero High School teacher who was reportedly pulled over on her way to school after she was observed swerving through several lanes of traffic at 20 miles-per-hour. Her blood alcohol at 7 a.m., according to authorities, measured three times the legal limit.
Drunk driving accident attorneys in Cape Coral know that if the facts are true as alleged by police, these two are lucky they didn’t seriously hurt or kill someone.
In Florida, nearly one-third of all traffic fatalities are attributed to a driver who was impaired by alcohol, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. While the state passed an ignition interlock bill in 2008, some advocates now say it’s time for a change. However, they disagree on the approach.
On one side of the argument is Mothers Against Drunk Driving, also backed by the vendors of the ignition interlock devices, which are in-vehicle breathalyzers that disable the car if the driver fails a test for the presence of alcohol. These groups say that the ignition interlock program should be expanded. Currently, the devices are an option for judges overseeing cases involving first-time offenders. However, the devices aren’t mandatory until the second or subsequent offense, except in cases where drivers at the time of arrest registered a blood-alcohol level of 0.15 percent or greater or had a minor in the vehicle. A judge can choose to impose use of the ignition interlock for first-time offenders, but it’s not required by law.
But there are those who say a different approach is necessary. Representatives with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, as well as various law enforcement agencies throughout the state, are touting a model of prevention known as “24/7 sobriety.” In this proposal, recently approved by a state House committee, offenders would be required to undergo twice-daily breathalyzer tests. In the alternative, they would be required to wear an alcohol-monitoring bracelet that would alert if alcohol is consumed.
At this point, some 10,000 Floridians use ignition-interlock devices. The executive director of FDHSMV has asserted that half of all new admissions to the program should be placed in the 24/7 sobriety program. She wants to analyze and compare the two programs after five years to see whether one is more effective.
The new bill would give judges the option of deciding which alcohol screening method to apply to offenders.
Naturally, the vendors of the ignition-interlock devices are against competition.
Still, a pilot program for the 24/7 sobriety approach – the first in Florida – will begin in early May in Jacksonville. A recent RAND Corp. study found that of 37,000 individuals who have participated in the program in other states, there has been a 12 percent reduction in repeat DUI arrests over the course of five years. As one consultant put it: “It’s the first time in their alcoholic careers that somebody’s held them accountable for their sobriety.”
Getting a person to stay sober long-term may ultimately be more effective than simply ensuring they don’t drive drunk, advocates say.
We’ll be closely watching to see whether legislators feel the same way strongly enough to pass Florida HB 7005.
If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at 888-751-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.