Florida, It’s Time For An All-Offender Ignition Interlock Law

roadwayWe all know ignition interlocks work to stop drunk drivers from driving again, and a new report from Florida’s Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability shows that interlock devices are effective as long as they are installed in offender’s vehicles. The problem they’ve found is that in Florida, as soon as they remove the device the likelihood the offender will drive drunk again increases.

The study found that half of the drivers in Florida who were convicted of driving under the influence don’t bother to install an ignition interlock device, even though they were ordered to do so by a judge. According to Florida DUI laws, first offenders will receive up to 6 months in jail, fines up to $500, and a driver’s license suspension for 180 days.

In 2014, the state did expand on its interlock laws by allowing judges to order first-time offenders with a BAC of .08 to .14 instead of the standard 10-day vehicle impoundment. First offenders may also be asked to install an ignition interlock device if they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over .15 or if they are arrested with a minor in the vehicle, and second offenders are required to install an ignition interlock for at least one year.

So instead of driving with an ignition interlock as required by the courts, some of these offenders will continue to drive on suspended licenses. In 2012, Florida reported 195,467 drivers state-wide who were charged with a felony for knowingly driving without a valid license. If even ¼ of those drivers were charged with DUI and were skipping their ignition interlock requirement, that’s a lot of drunk drivers back on the road driving without restrictions.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and those in the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the solution to this problem is to require first offenders to install an ignition interlock upon conviction. That way there’s a smaller likelihood they will drive drunk again. There are 24 states requiring ignition interlocks for all offenders, but Florida has yet to join them.

Florida has one of the worst drunk driving records out of all of the states, and we all know that ignition interlocks are the solution. The problem Florida now faces is how to ensure they’re placed in the vehicles of the people who need them.

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