Drive Sober or Don’t Drive at All

Drive Sober or Don’t Drive at all is the message state lawmakers may soon send to those caught drinking and driving. Legislation receiving bi-partisan support would require future DUI offenders to prove they are sober before being allowed to drive again.

More than 62 thousand people are arrested each year in Florida for drunk driving. One in five of those arrested is a repeat offender.

Rep. Steve Perman, D-Ft. Lauderdale, “I like bills that save lives.”

Now state lawmakers want to give judges the option of ordering a breathalyzer-type device, called an interlock, on offenders cars. The driver would have to blow into the interlock to prove they are sober before the car would start. Rep. Dennis Baxley of Ocala likes the idea. “The idea is to put this person back to work, that they can get back to work.”

“I’m a biology major here at Florida State...” Matthew Beard would have turned 26 last month. He was killed in 2006 by a drunk driver.

Connie Russell is his mother. “Matthew didn’t have to die.”

Matthew’s mother has been working the hallways of the Capitol to change the law so judges have more authority to order interlock devices. “In the blink of an eye, I was never called mom again. He was my only son, and I wear this that says “Matt’s Mom.” I’ll never have grandchildren.”

Offenders would have to pay just under a hundred dollars a month to have the devices installed. Then they’d have to pay just about 60 dollars a month for monitoring.

The sponsor says the legislation will give people the option of doing the right thing. “They cannot mobilize the vehicle if they are drinking, which will change the direction of things. Whereas if they’ve just been suspended or fined, they still may be driving drunk.”

On Wednesday, a house committee named the legislation for Matthew Beard and another DUI victim, Grace Redgate.

The interlock measure has cleared three House committees, but has yet to be heard in the Senate.


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