Some drivers convicted of DUI in Florida would have to submit to a sobriety monitoring program under a measure recently passed by the Florida Legislature. The legislation may go a long way toward keeping drunk and drugged drivers off the roads.
Currently, Florida judges can require repeat DUI offenders to install interlock devices in their cars. A driver must blow into the device before starting a car. If the device detects alcohol above a certain level in the driver’s breath, the car will not start.
The new measure lets judges also put repeat DUI offenders into a “qualified sobriety and drug monitoring program,” sometimes known as a “24/7 Sobriety” program. This would not only allow a repeat DUI offender’s drinking to be monitored but his or her drug use as well.
According to the bill, the program would have to be “evidence-based” and approved by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. The program could monitor an offender’s use of alcohol or drugs through one or more ways:
- Breath-testing twice per day
- Alcohol-monitoring devices
- Random blood, breath, urine or oral fluid testing.
The measure, H.B. 7005, passed the Senate 37-0 and the House 106-3. It has been sent to Governor Rick Scott for approval.
New Option for Fighting Drunk Driving and Drugged Driving
The Orlando Sentinel reports that more than 10,000 Florida residents currently are required to have ignition interlock devices in their vehicles.
Julie Jones, executive director of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, told the newspaper that the new measure would be an improvement because it would allow monitoring of drugged drivers.
“The current IID [ignition interlock device] program has been very helpful for the treatment of impaired driving offenders. But why limit ourselves to one method that is exclusive to drinking while driving-while-drugged violations continue to increase?” she said.
Traffic Safety Issues
Both ignition interlock devices and the proposed alcohol-and-drug-monitoring programs in H.B. 7005 would address two key traffic safety issues in Florida:
- Repeat DUI offenders. As National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics show, a conviction alone often is not enough to deter drunk drivers from repeating the offense. NHTSA numbers indicate that drunk drivers who cause fatal accidents are seven times more likely to have a prior DUI conviction than are sober drivers in fatal crashes. Sobriety programs and ignition interlock devices may make it less likely that an offender will repeatedly drive under the influence.
- Drugged driving. Surveys and studies indicate that this is a rising problem in Florida and across the country. The We Save Lives traffic safety blog reports that suspected drugged driving crashes in Florida rose by 61 percent between 2010 and 2011, while deaths in such accidents went up by nearly 80 percent. It is not just illegal drugs that are a concern. Prescription drugs such as Oxycontin can impair drivers as well.
Given these pressing traffic safety issues, it makes sense to give judges the authority to put repeat DUI offenders into a program that could keep them off the road if they are impaired by either alcohol or drugs.