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Southwest Florida drunk drivers targeted to prevent accidents, wrongful death

Drunk Drivers in Southwest Florida face an increasing array of penalties this holiday season as a full-scale law enforcement crackdown aims to prevent serious injury or death caused by drunk drivers.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving is stepping up efforts to reduce the number of people tragically killed and injured by drunk drivers by partnering with law enforcement in a high-visibility crackdown this holiday season,” said Brenda Gellinger, a family support coordinator for the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and local MADD representative.

“From now through New Year’s Day, law enforcement will be out in full force conducting sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols to make it clear that if you drive drunk, you will be arrested,” Gellinger said.

A local MADD chapter will be operating in Lee County this year to assist local law enforcement in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Bonita Springs, Fort Myers Beach and elswhere. After several years without a presence in Southwest Florida, Gellinger recently reopened in office space provided by Bruce and Cheryl Scheiner of Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Personal Injury Lawyers, which also has purchased dozens of “Don’t Drink and Drive” billboards for the holidays and provides support for local sobriety checkpoints.

On Tuesday, MADD reported 890 drunk driving deaths in Florida in 2007, the third-highest number in the nation. MADD also announced it would seek a law mandating interlocks – devices a driver must breathe into to prove sobriety before starting their vehicle – for everyone convicted of drunk driving.

MADD already successfully pushed for a Florida law, which took effect July 1, 2008, mandating the devices for repeat offenders and those with a blood alcohol level over .15 on first offense (the legal limit is .08).

Florida ranks Thanksgiving the deadliest holiday of the year with an average of 53 motorists killed – almost half as a result of a drunk driving accident.

MADD estimates the cost of a drunk driving arrest at $8,000 to $11,000, including fines, attorney fees and increases in auto insurance premiums.

Local law enforcement will be out in force, said Lt. Jim Drzymala of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, who advised motorists who suspect someone might be driving drunk to call 911 and report it, just as they would any other type of crime.

“It’s all about personal responsibility,” Drzymala said. “Don’t get in a car and cause a lifetime of hurt for you or someone else.”

Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Personal Injury Lawyers, has been representing victims of drunk driving crashes for four decades and offers free appointments to discuss your case at any of its offices, including Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples, Arcadia, Port Charlotte, Sebring and Venice.