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Lawmakers Seek Tougher Penalties for Drunk Drivers in Sunrise, Nation

A proposed bill being mulled by federal lawmakers, which seeks to reduce the number of drunk driving car accidents in Sunrise and throughout the country, would increase penalties for first-time DUI offenders.

States would receive cash incentives to apply harsher drunk driving laws.

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It’s part of a transportation law that would allow the federal government to grant an estimated $500 million annually for improved highway safety measures.

Our Sunrise car accident attorneys now understand that about 5 percent of that money, or about $25 million – would go to states that impose ignition interlock technology for first-time drunk drivers.

There is a great deal of debate surrounding the issue, with proponents saying drunk drivers pose serious road hazards that need to be addressed. Critics, meanwhile, argue that the $25 million won’t even get the initiatives off the ground, and will cost states more money than they’ll be receiving in grants.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the average offender drives under the influence about 80 times before they are arrested. Further, more than a third of Americans will be involved in a DUI crash at some point in their lives and every 50 minutes, someone dies in the U.S. due to an alcohol-related car accident. And every minute of every day, someone is injured in a crash where alcohol was a factor.

According to the Capitol Hill Publishing Corp., a draft of the bill is being debated by the federal House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The interlock devices are a technology that requires a driver to blow into a tube that calculates their blood alcohol level. It’s similar to the Breathalyzer machine employed by countless law enforcement agencies throughout the country. The difference is, it fits into individual vehicles, and if the blood alcohol content is higher than 0.08 – the legal limit – the vehicle won’t even start.

Florida is one of 15 states that already have this technology, and its use is outlined under Section 316.193. Under this law, first-time offenders can be required to use the interlock technology if a judge orders it, or if the offender blows a 0.15 or higher or is involved in a crash. After the second offense, the device can be required for up to a year. Subsequent offenses can have drivers using the technology for up to 5 years.
Because Florida already uses this technology, it would be eligible for the federal cash.

But the American Beverage Institute is arguing against the measure, saying it amounts to “bribing” states that are in desperate need of money. The ABI does, however, support the use of interlock devices for repeat offenders or those who blow a high blood alcohol level.

In the meantime, here are a few tips to follow if you happen to encounter a drunk driver in Sunrise or elsewhere in Florida:

-Stay as far away from the vehicle as you can.
-Don’t try to pass or signal the drunk driver to pull over. That could cause you to crash.
-Take note of the vehicle’s make, model and color, as well as the license plate number. But don’t risk your own safety to do so.
-Pull over and call 911. Give the dispatcher the location of the car, as well as the name of any cross streets and some indication of which way the car is traveling.

If you or a family member has been injured in a drunk driving car accident in Sunrise, Lauderdale Lakes, Royal Palm Beach, Pompano Beach or in any of the surrounding areas, contact our personal injury lawyers of Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez, LLC for a confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call 1-800-529-2368.

Additional Resources:

House transportation bill expected to go after drunken driving, By Pete Kasperowicz, The Hill

Mothers Against Drunk Driving

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