More severe penalties could be on the way for first-time drunk driving offenders. As we wait for news on the newly proposed Florida ignition interlock (IID) expansion, we’d like to point out a few facts to help clarify arguments in the state. This bill would require an ignition interlock device on someone’s vehicle after their first drunk driving conviction. The bill has passed its first committee in the Florida House of Representatives. It must go through two more committees before reaching the House floor.
When Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), was first founded, driver’s license suspension was thought to be an effective countermeasure for convicted drunk drivers. But, drunk drivers drive drunk more than 80 times before being caught. What’s more, 50 to 75 percent of convicted drunk drivers continue to drive with a suspended license. Why do they do this? Because they think they can. Clearly, long-term license suspension is not an effective consequence for the majority of convicted offenders.
An ignition interlock device is the most current technology proven to effectively stop convicted drunk drivers from repeating the crime. The device is a breath-test system linked to a vehicle’s ignition. Before convicted drunk driving offenders start their vehicles, they must first blow into the device. The vehicle will not start unless the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is below a pre-set limit.
MADD asks lawmakers to do more to stop drunk driving and require the use of Florida ignition interlock devices for all convicted drunk drivers. Florida has required interlocks for first-time convicted drunk drivers with a BAC of .15 percent or greater. In 2014, the state expanded the existing law to allow judges to order interlocks for first-time offenders with a BAC of .08 to .14 in lieu of a 10-day vehicle impoundment. Interlocks are designed to ensure that offenders can’t beat the system, including prompts that require a driver to provide breath tests at regular intervals, preventing drivers from asking a sober friend to start the car or to drink while driving or to leave the car idling in a parking lot while drinking.
People who participate in the interlock program are required to have the device calibrated every month, which includes collecting the last month of data (i.e. BAC, mileage, the number of start/stops etc.) to be transmitted and reviewed by the DMV for any alcohol use or other issues like tampering. The DMV would rather not wait to collect this information, so they are changing the device requirements to require real-time data transmittal.
Use of interlocks often reduces repeated offenses by more than two-thirds. The device is leased from an interlock provider and they are required to install the device. Taxpayers are not penalized since every state with an all-offender interlock law requires the offender to pay these costs. When the interlock sentence is over, the offender simply has the device removed and resumes normal driving privileges.
One of the biggest ways to increase safety on the streets is to expand Florida ignition interlock access. Contact your lawmakers or MADD to stop drunk driving in Florida by sending a personalized letter or e-mail to your representatives in support of current interlock expansion legislation. It takes only two minutes, but the impact can last a lifetime.