Why would a state pass up an opportunity to crack down on their drunk driving problem? When you consider how significant Florida’s drunk driving problem is, it’s surprising that lawmakers just let the Florida ignition interlock bill die before it could make it to the Governor’s desk.
Both MADD and police stood in support of an update to the Florida ignition interlock laws, and the proposed bill was for the stiffest interlock penalty you can pass: an all offender ignition interlock law. An interlock is a device that will stop any drunk driving offender from starting their vehicle when that person has been drinking. Having an all offender law means that everyone, first offenders included, would be required to use the device for a period of time.
There’s a major difference between the Florida ignition interlock law they have in place and what an offender ignition interlock law would bring to the table. Right now if you’re stopped for drunk driving in Florida and it’s your first offense you will only be required to use an interlock if you meet one of two conditions: if you’re blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.15 or higher or if you have a minor under the age of 18 in your vehicle at the time of arrest. You’ll also only be required to use an interlock for six months.
Just how badly is a Florida ignition interlock bill needed? One repeat drunk driver from Marion County, Florida provides the perfect example of what’s going on in the state. She was arrested for DUI four years ago and when she was convicted based on a near lethal BAC of .410, she told the judge that she was going to get help so it didn’t happen again.
Just this year she drove drunk again, and this time, just like many other repeat drunk drivers, she killed someone. Once again her BAC at the time of arrest was .402, and now she’s facing DUI manslaughter charges.
If Florida had an all offender interlock law four years ago, this offender would have driven with an interlock and may not have decided to drive drunk again. There’s also no way of knowing how many times she’s been driving drunk in those four years, and that’s why it’s important to use interlocks the first time someone is arrested.
Let’s hope the Florida ignition interlock bill will live again, and the state will decide to pass this life saving law.