Florida Lawmakers Weigh Ignition Interlock Alternative

Lawmakers in Tallahassee are weighing a proposal to test DUI offenders’ blood-alcohol levels twice daily – as opposed to forcing them to install ignition interlock devices on their vehicles. Advocates say this approach is more effective long-term in reducing repeat DUI offenses, as well as other crimes related to alcohol and substance abuse.
The latter approach has been in place since 2008, and DUI injury attorneys in Naples are aware of a marked level of success.

However, many anti-drunk driving advocates say it doesn’t go far enough. The debate among them isn’t so much whether the laws should be changed or strengthened, but what that new law should look like.

Those who advocate for expanded use of ignition interlock devices point to its previous success, and say the real problem in Florida is that they aren’t used enough. The devices work by requiring the operator of a vehicle to submit to a breathalyzer test to gauge potential alcohol intoxication before the car will start. Current law allows for judges to decide if they want to impose use of the device for first-time offenders. However, they aren’t required to do so until someone already has at least one prior conviction for DUI. It becomes mandatory for varying periods of time from the second DUI conviction on.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving reports there are some 305,000 ignition interlock devices in use in the U.S. (10,000 of those in Florida). Since interlocks have become more commonplace, the agency reports, drunk driving fatalities have dropped. They say there is a causal connection. The agency says that in Kansas, where all drunk driving offenders have been required to have the device installed since 2011, there has been a 31 percent drop in the number of DUI deaths.

However, there are those who say it doesn’t go far enough. While the program certainly has successes, according to the executive director of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, those successes are limited to the time period in which the devices are in use. Repeat offenses, she says, occur as soon as the devices come off.

A more effective approach, she says, would be the 24/7 sobriety program. Proposed in Florida HB 7005, the 24/7 sobriety program would require routine, daily alcohol monitoring of all offenders. Offenders would be required to abstain from alcohol use during the entire time in the program. The law would give judges the discretion to decide whether to impose either ignition interlocks or the 24/7 sobriety program on offenders.

Advocates for the latter approach, which includes several sheriff office representatives throughout the state, assert that requiring sobriety not only increases the chances that a person will stay sober, it also reduced other forms of crime related to substance abuse – not just DUI. For example, in other states that have implemented the program, domestic violence and theft reports have also declined.

Still, supporters of ignition interlock fear that without requiring ignition interlocks on the vehicle, there would be nothing technically stopping someone who is drunk getting behind the wheel of the car. Without an interlock, an offender’s car would still start if they were drunk. They may be caught later as a result of their failure to pass the breathalyzer, but by then, advocates say, it could be too late.

Call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, attorneys for the injured, at 1-800-646-1210.

Additional Resources:
Rep. Dane Eagle, of Cape Coral, charged with DUI, April 22, 2014, By Sean Rossman, Democrat Staff
More Blog Entries:
Fort Myers Car Accident Attorneys Highlight Alcohol Awareness Month, April 18, 2014, Naples DUI Injury Lawyer Blog

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