Despite National and statewide campaigns warning drivers about the dangers of drinking and driving, many Florida residents continue to get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, 697 Florida residents were fatally injured in drunk driving car accidents in 2012, which accounts for 29 percent of all motor vehicle accident deaths statewide that year. Although Florida officials currently enforce a mandatory ignition interlock device law for first-time drunk drivers who have a blood alcohol content level of 0.15 percent or higher, many believe that the law should be revised to include all convicted DUI offenders.
Such a law may have resulted in a different outcome for a Lighthouse Point woman. According to a Local 10 News report, a 29-year-old man who had been convicted of drinking and driving on at least two separate occasions was driving recklessly and abruptly steered into the center lane of traffic, smashing into the passenger side of the woman’s vehicle. This started a chain of events which resulted in the woman’s paralysis.
In an attempt to prevent intoxicated motorists from driving drunk, ignition interlock devices disable the vehicle from starting if the driver has a blood alcohol content level above a preset amount, according to the Century Council. The driver is prompted to blow into a tube that is connected to the device, and the breath sample is then analyzed for alcohol. If the sample measures below the preset amount, the vehicle will start.
Periodically during the drive, the motorist will be required to submit breath samples in order to keep the vehicle going. If the initial or subsequent breath tests measure above the preset BAC level, or if a test is missed altogether, an alarm will sound until the driver turns off the vehicle or submits a clean breath sample.
Although most convicted DUI offenders have their licenses suspended, MADD reports that as many as 75 percent of them continue to drive. More than 20,000 drunk drivers in Florida were caught driving with a suspended license in 2010. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that interlock devices reduce the DUI recidivism rate by 67 percent.
Interlock devices have also proven to decrease the DUI fatality rate in states that mandate their use. According to MADD, 22 states currently require all convicted drunk drivers to use ignition interlock devices for a period of time, and California is piloting the law in four counties. Since implementing the law, Arizona has seen a 43 percent decrease in their drunk driving fatality rate. Oregon, Louisiana, New Mexico, Utah, Alaska, West Virginia, Colorado, Washington and Kansas have seen similar reductions in DUI injuries and deaths.
Car accidents involving drunk drivers can be extremely devastating to all involved. Not only can DUI accidents result in severe physical injuries but they involve emotional trauma as well. People who have been victimized by a drunk driver may want to contact an attorney, who can stand up for their rights.