The number of drunk driving crashes in Florida continues to climb, so the state legislature is trying to stop this alarming trend by passing a bill that would require an ignition interlock device for those convicted of driving under the influence.
Florida HB 949 would require all first time DUI offenders to install an ignition interlock device on their car at their expense for six months. The device will not allow the vehicle to start if the driver has a BAC beyond .025. This is approximately 1/3 of the legal limit of .08.
The bill has sponsorship from Republicans and Democrats. But it has been facing an uphill battle to get to the floor this year for a vote.
Under current Florida law, only drivers who register a BAC or .15 or more, or multiple DUI offenders, have to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle. HB 949 would require first-time offenders to do so. Those who have the device on their vehicle for six months without any new charges may have their criminal records sealed – unless the offender caused personal injury or damage to property.
If the bill passes, Florida would be the newest of 28 states to adopt such a law, which has had a positive effect on drunk driving deaths. A recent ignition interlock study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that states that have all-offender laws requiring an ignition interlock device for all convicted drunk drivers have cut their drunk driving death rates by 15%.
In West Virginia, DUI-related deaths plunged 50% since its law was implemented in 2014.
Such a drop would be very welcome news in Florida. Drunk driving deaths increased by 15% from 2014 to 2015. This is much higher than the 3.2% increase nationally.
Our Virginia and North Carolina drunk driving attorneys are pleased to see that Florida is trying to pass a law that could potentially reduce the number of drunk driving accidents and deaths in that state.
As DUI personal injury attorneys, we have worked on far too many drunk driving cases in Virginia and North Carolina resulting in devastating personal injuries or death. We hope that forcing convicted drunk drivers to have an ignition interlock device will make them think twice before driving drunk.
It is ridiculous that people drink and get behind the wheel. Some of them are so intoxicated they cannot even stay on the road. We represented an engineer in Norfolk, Virginia who was hit by a drunk driver on the sidewalk. He suffered serious leg injuries, and we were able to get him a $100,000 personal injury settlement. We were glad to have helped, but the man still have to have four painful surgeries on his leg. He also lost work time due to the drunk driving injury and he lost work time.
Hopefully, the more serious the penalties for DUI, the fewer of these cases we will see.