Driving on 4 Flat Tires: “Is Something Wrong, Officer?”

driving-with-four-flat-tires-duiMaybe you read about a winner of the Miss Washington pageant who had to give up her crown in 2016 because she was arrested for DUI after she was pulled over for driving with two flat tires.

Recently Florida was the scene of an event twice as dramatic. A motorist was arrested in Port Lucie for driving with four flat tires. The woman was pulled over not just for the flats, but for driving under 10 miles an hour in a 40 mph zone.

What makes the story a bit scary is that the woman in question did not think anything was wrong. If you’ve ever driven with one flat tire, much less four, you know that it does not feel normal.

Alcohol, however, dulls the senses. It dulls the hearing, so she might not have heard the rims clanging on the asphalt. It diminishes concentration, which is why she might not have noticed that the 2012 Honda CR-V was a bit harder to steer than usual.

That’s scary because if she was oblivious to the effects of driving with four flat tires, she would have been oblivious to any car or pedestrian she hit as well.

Fortunately, no cars or people were hit. But the fact remains that it’s possible to get in a car and drive despite a level of impairment that is almost incapacitating. That is the reason that ignition interlocks are the preferred response to drunk driving. It’s far too easy to drive a car drunk. Having an ignition interlock makes it impossible, which helps protect society from repeat drunk drivers.

Florida should require ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenses, as 31 states now do. It’s up to concerned citizens to make this happen. The drunk drivers aren’t listening – as we’ve just seen, they can’t even hear.

How Not to Refuse a Florida Sobriety Test: Bite the Cop

refuse-florida-sobriety-test-biteDUI patrol is not an easy job. It was particularly hard for some Leon County officers who responded to a call after a crash in Tallahassee. It appears an SUV had run a car off the road. The SUV’s  driver was unable to focus or speak.

Worse, when deputies tried to put her in the patrol car, she tried to bite them.

Eventually the officers had to call for backup to subdue the suspect.

The point is not that people should not bite police officers – though we stand by that rule as well. What’s  scary is that a person can get drunk enough so that she can’t finish a sentence, can’t control her actions, and can’t comprehend the trouble she’s in, yet she can drive a vehicle. And that’s the way it will be until some kind of technology arrives that prevents someone drunk from driving any vehicle.

As it stands, there is technology to keep drunks from driving some vehicles – those equipped with an ignition interlock. Right now 30 states mandate the devices for all drunk driving offenses. Florida does not – only first-time convicted drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or over are required to use the device. With repeat offenders it’s .08, as it should be.

The extreme nature of this encounter underscores the danger that alcohol poses on the road. A driver who is not aware that she’s broken the law and caused damage is a driver who could easily kill. Fortunately, no one was injured. A bike path was nearby, so it could have been much worse.

Florida also does not require an ignition interlock for refusing a sobriety test – even if that includes biting the tester. Legislators need to get together in Florida and pass some new drunk driving laws.

Ones with teeth.

 

Walk Like MADD Tampa Friday Evening: 11 Years of the Good Fight

Tampa-walk-like-maddThe army that battles drunk driving has many outposts. One of the most stalwart of them is the Tampa, Florida branch of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). This Friday evening, 23 March, the office will hold the 11th annual Tampa Walk Like MADD, one of the oldest and longest-running MADD walking events in the nation.

The walk will take place on the main campus of the University of South Florida in Tampa. Participants are encouraged to obtain sponsorship from employers, friends, and family members to raise money for MADD’s activities. Companies can create teams, and other sponsors generously donate to the cause.

The funds go to further MADD’s goals:

  • Raise awareness of impaired driving and its costs to society
  • Promoting more effective anti-drunk driving legislation, including ignition interlock laws and high-visibility law enforcement
  • Helping victims cope with the effects of drunk driving crashes

This year’s event is presented by Burnetti PA, and the event’s honorary chairman is Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister.  Sheriff Chronister, who oversees one of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies, is dedicated to eradicating impaired driving.

Larry-Morrell-walk-like-madd

Hillsborough Sheriff’s Deputy Larry Morrell

The 2018 Tampa Walk Like MADD is dedicated to Hillsborough Sheriff’s Deputy Larry Morrell, who died of cancer last summer. A MADD supporter and a larger-than-life character, Larry worked on the DUI enforcement unit, taking a unique approach to educating students about drinking, and also schooling bartenders and store clerks in not selling to underage and impaired patrons. MADD named him Florida Law Enforcement Officer of the Year in 2016.  The award is now called the “Deputy Larry Morrell Law Enforcement Officer of the Year”.

Law enforcement officers will be walking to show their support for MADD’s Campaign to End Drunk Driving. There will also be victims’ families and friends, and many well-wishers and those who simply see drunk driving as a serious problem that needs eradication.

“MADD is needed. MADD is necessary. MADD is relevant,” says Larry Coggins, Jr, Executive Director of the West Central Florida branch of MADD. “ MADD has singlehandedly changed the American culture to recognize that drunk driving is unacceptable, 100% preventable, and is a violent crime.”

Since its inception MADD has helped reduce drunk fatalities from 25,000 per year to just over 10,000, but Coggins sees the success as incomplete until that number is zero. That is the reason for the 11th Annual Tampa Walk Like MADD.  If you’re in or near Tampa and you think No More Victims is a goal worth pursuing, you know where to be this Friday evening.

Tampa Walk Like MADD
Where: University of South Florida
Registration: 5:00pm – 6:00pm
Walk: 6:30pm – 8pm

More information about the event can be found here.

A Millionaire’s Blood Feud with Florida Court Ends in Defeat

blood-test-for-alcoholA millionaire who is now in prison for DUI manslaughter recently tried to challenge Florida’s methods of collecting and testing blood for alcohol levels. It did not go well for him.

John Goodman, who was convicted in 2014 for DUI manslaughter, is serving a 16-year prison sentence. His lawyers recently challenged the rule that forced him to give a blood sample after the crash.

The defendant’s attorneys argued that people who were tested had no opportunity to ensure that the blood samples were collected in a reliable way. There are no guidelines for the type of needle that is used, for example.

The argument didn’t wash. The Florida Supreme court found that only medical experts collect blood, and standard laboratory practices are already in place to ensure that testing is accurate.

Blood Test for Alcohol Levels – Reliable Evidence

Breath tests give a good indication of a suspect’s intoxication, but a blood test for alcohol gives a 100 percent accurate and therefore uncontestable result. That is why blood tests are sought after by the prosecution (and the defense, when they are confident that a suspect was not impaired).

Calling the accuracy of blood tests into question might have endangered many cases that rely on them for evidence. But that is not going to happen anytime soon. Blood tests for alcohol levels remain a vital element of DUI prosecutions in Florida and elsewhere.

Scary: Florida Man Drove Child to School While Drunk

florida-dui-child-endangerment

The man was driving recklessly enough that the 911 line was swamped with calls. They were telling the operators that a man was running off the road, that he almost hit other cars head on.

One caller had an even more chilling report: there was a child in the car, and the boy was afraid.

As it turned out, the driver managed to drop the child off at a Fruitland Park school, and then stopped and fell asleep at the wheel. That might have been the end of the danger, but there was one more scare left in the man. When officers tapped on the window glass, the man woke up, stepped on the gas and drove into a fence.

There’s lots to terrify anyone here. Possible head-on collisions. An unexpected charge into a fence  – what if someone had been in front of the car then? And worst of all, the presence of a child.

The driver, Christopher Beauchemin, was found to have a blood alcohol level of .233, about three times the legal .08 limit. That is a massively debilitating amount of alcohol, rendering a person totally incapable of piloting a car. At that level vision is impaired, and concentration is so poor that a car will continually veer off the road as the driver’s attention waivers.

Is Florida Tough Enough on Child Endangerment?

Driving drunk with a minor is a uniquely cruel and reckless act. Children depend on adults for security and guidance. This kind of child endangerment is a betrayal of trust as well as an overtly criminal act.

At present, Florida does indeed punish DUI offenders who are caught with minors in the vehicle. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), which has rated all the states for their anti-drunk-driving measures, would like to see those punishments increase. Endangering a minor while driving impaired should be a felony, the organization says. According to MADD, only 7 states currently treat this crime as a felony. More information about the states’ ratings can be found in the 2018 Report to the Nation.

How Not to Pass a Sobriety Test: Cartwheels and Chardonnay

It happened in Florida, as many such things do: a man was found passed out at a McDonald’s drive-thru after placing an order. The relationship between drunk driving and fast-food drive-thru windows is a long and sorry one, a phenomenon which has yet to be explored.

When the police arrived, the driver, one Christopher Bidzinski, was eating his food. He stepped out of the car, stumbled, and told the cops that he was unlikely to pass a sobriety test. He was correct.

For some reason, Bidzinski decided to do a cartwheel during the procedure. The result did not help his case, especially since it was recorded on video:

The suspect admitted to drinking Chardonnay (Chardonnay, seriously?) and asked to be taken to jail.

If you’re thinking that this is the first cartwheel during a sobriety test to be captured on video, you should see this clip from Albuquerque, taken last year in a similar situation:

It’s hard to say what makes a DUI suspect want to do a cartwheel during a a sobriety test, but that’s alcohol for you. Its capacity for helping people make poor decisions is almost limitless. But that’s why drinking and driving is illegal: on the road, poor decisions and lack of coordination lead to disaster. At the roadside it’s just another dumb DUI story.

No doubt when you think about this video you’ll think about the pratfall. But had the police not stopped the driver when they did, things might have ended differently. A wrong turn in a car at night can be a serious thing indeed. We have the crash statistics to prove it.

There’s A Bright Side To The Florida Ignition Interlock Program

Florida Ignition InterlockTaking part in the Florida ignition interlock program is a requirement for a Florida DUI, but only if a few conditions are met. First offenders need to install one if they are arrested with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over .15, and second, third, and other repeat offenders must use the device for at least a year after conviction.

When you are required to use an interlock, you can expect, as part of your Florida ignition interlock program, to stop driving after drinking any amount of alcohol. What you wouldn’t expect is that the very same device can also stop someone from stealing your car. Or, if it doesn’t stop that person, it can slow them down and record evidence too.

Need an example? A 17-year-old from Hillsborough County, Florida was recently arrested after he stole a car outside of a McDonald’s restaurant recently. The owner of the car was standing outside of the restaurant and had left his car running nearby. The teen decided to jump into the car and drive away, and when he did the owner gave chase.

The owner was dragged by the vehicle before he let go, and the teen took off. It was found abandoned the next morning, and although you’d think the teen got away free and clear, think again. Because of the Florida ignition interlock requirement, this teen was caught in the act.

Ignition interlock devices are equipped with a camera that records the driver providing a breath sample. This teen had to blow into the device to start the car, and he was most likely required to blow into it again for a rolling retest. Maybe he didn’t realize his photo was being taken every time he blew into it, but whether he knew or not, photographic evidence was easily obtained thanks to the interlock.

An ignition interlock is a penalty, and most people just want to get through their program, drive sober, and move on with their lives. But if you look on the positive side, that interlock can teach you to drive sober and, if you lose your car due to theft, it can help identify the thief too.

Florida Drunk Drivers Don’t Normally Call Themselves In

Florida drunk driversPolice catch Florida drunk drivers all the time. Anyone who is inclined to get behind the wheel drunk has a strong likelihood of getting caught as soon as they hit the open road, and if police don’t stop these people, other drivers may call them in too.

There’s also the possibility that the drunk driver will call himself in. Or, at least, that’s what happened on New Year’s Eve in Winter Haven, Florida. It’s hard to believe, but this drunk driver decided to pick up the phone and call the police dispatch when he couldn’t figure out where he was.

The audio recording was shared on the Winter Haven Police Department’s Facebook page. The drunk driver said that he was driving but was too drunk and didn’t know where he was. He said he was driving a red truck, and while the dispatcher directed him to pull over to the side of the road, he said he’s parked near the police department but so far, nothing was happening.

It’s strange enough that he called and that he pulled over and was waiting for the police, but as he waited he changed his mind and told the dispatcher, ‘I think I am going to get something to eat, they can just catch up with me later.’

Long story short, he tried to leave his location but the dispatcher managed to zero in on him and police arrived. They found him on the wrong side of the road, without a seat belt, and with previous convictions for Florida DUI as well as drug charges.

Like other Florida drunk drivers, he’s been charged with DUI and will face criminal charges in court. Unlike other drunk drivers in the state, he managed to get caught for drunk driving without getting pulled over at a checkpoint, without getting pulled over for driving erratically, and without getting called in by a concerned citizen. He did it all on his own.

In this case the police department was happy no one was hurt, and if you follow their Facebook page, you can tell they thought it was pretty funny. That’s understandable, because most Florida DUI arrests don’t end that way.

Will This Florida Drunk Driving Crash Prompt New Interlock Laws?

Florida drunk driving It’s inevitable that police officers will be hurt or killed in the line of duty, and it’s especially sad when they are attempting to rescue an innocent person from crash site. Unfortunately, it’s all too common for police officers to be killed or injured while helping others, and one Florida drunk driving crash has claimed another victim.

It happened in Miami-Dade County in the early hours. A Florida Highway Patrol trooper was at the scene of a crash. While he was standing at the scene another car hit one of the crashed cars and the impact sent the other crashed car straight into the officer.

The officer was hit and landed a distance away from the cars. He was left with serious injuries. The driver who caused the second crash was given a breathalyzer test and was found to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .201. That’s almost triple the legal limit of .08.  After an investigation of the crash police arrested him on a Florida drunk driving charge and DUI causing damage.

Thankfully the officer will recover from his injuries, but other police officers haven’t been as lucky. Officer Noah Leotta of Maryland was working a DUI check stop when a car crashed into him. The impact ended his life. Leotta’s death was one of the reasons why Maryland was spurred to pass an all offender ignition interlock law.

An ignition interlock device is a device that requires all drunk driving offenders, including first time offenders with a BAC of .08 or higher, to blow an alcohol-free sample before they can start the car. It’s been proven that all offender ignition interlock laws save lives and prevent thousands of people from driving after they attempt to start their cars.

Could this crash mean that Florida will begin a serious effort to pass such a law in the sunshine state? Florida has let an all offender ignition interlock law die before it came to a final vote on more than one occasion, but all it takes is one serious drunk driving case to motivate lawmakers to get behind a new bill. Will this be the case for Florida?

Police Officer Saved Her. Then He Arrested Her For Florida Drunk Driving

Florida drunk driving Florida is one of those states where, despite the best efforts, police still struggle with drunk drivers. Florida drunk driving is so bad that police have seen DUI golf cart crashes leading to death, parents getting called in for DUI by their kids, and naked drunk drivers who clearly couldn’t stand the heat and humidity.

But one recent Florida drunk driving arrest may just top them all, and that’s because a police officer had to move quickly between saving a life and arresting that very same person for drunk driving.

Thanks to video capture on a dashcam, a Florida Highway Patrol trooper can be seen approaching a vehicle in Naples, Florida late one night. The car had driven onto the shoulder of a busy interstate, and you can hear him asking the driver to wake up through the glass of the window.

When she wouldn’t wake up the officer broke the window and checked her pulse. Finding her lifeless, he pulled her from the car and began to administer CPR until she was breathing again. She was sent to the hospital via ambulance, and when they took her blood alcohol content (BAC) they found she was at .039.

With a BAC that high, she was at the lethal level for alcohol poisoning. That’s most likely why she was unresponsive and her heart stopped, and she’s extremely fortunate someone found her in that condition and brought her back to life. Once she’d recovered the police officer handed her charges for Florida drunk driving.

It just goes to show that some drunk drivers don’t have a clue how drunk they are before they drive a car. Not everyone in that condition would pull over on the side of the road before they lost consciousness, and although she’ll now face the fines, penalties, and driver’s license suspension associated with a Florida drunk driving charge, it is thanks to that arrest that she’s alive today.

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