KFB Honors National Impaired Driving Prevention Month In Tampa Bay

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By Marcus Fernandez

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, impaired driving fatalities during the Christmas-New Year period account for one-third of annual traffic deaths. It’s no coincidence December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month. 

KFB Law supports this effort to raise public awareness of the danger impaired driving poses during the holiday season and, for that matter, throughout the year. This blog post explains impaired driving and its effects on motorists. You’ll also learn a few ways to participate in holiday festivities without endangering yourself or others.

What is driver impairment?

Operating a car or other motor vehicle requires concentration, judgment, and the ability to react to changing situations or conditions to maintain control over your vehicle. Using drugs, even those prescribed by your doctor, or consuming alcohol at holiday parties have adverse effects on your ability to drive, such as:

  • Impaired short-term memory
  • Limited concentration and focus
  • Slowed reflexes and ability to react
  • Inability to determine speed and distance
  • Impaired judgment

Drugs and alcohol are the two causes that immediately come to mind in any discussion about impaired driving. But, something as common as drowsiness and fatigue can cause lapses in concentration, focus, and judgment. This can impair your ability to drive and may cause a car crash. 

What is impaired driving under Florida law?

All states have laws making it illegal for motorists to operate a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs or alcohol. Florida is no exception.

If you drive in Florida with a blood alcohol level, commonly referred to simply as BAL, of 0.08% or higher, you can be arrested and charged with driving under the influence. BAL does not measure chemical substances, such as prescription drugs, marijuana, cocaine, or other illegal substances that affect the ability to drive.

Florida imposes a lower BAL on drivers younger than 21 years old and for drivers of commercial vehicles. If you are under the age of 21, you can be charged with impaired driving with a BAL as low as 0.02% or higher. The BAL for drivers of commercial vehicles is 0.04% or higher.

Penalties for driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can be severe in the Sunshine State. This can depend on whether a driver has a prior conviction. The following are examples of the penalties courts may impose:

  • First conviction: Minimum fine of $500 up to a maximum of $1,000. But, the fine increases to at least $1,000 to a maximum of $2,000 if the driver has a BAL of .15 or higher or if a minor is a passenger in the vehicle.
  • Second conviction: Fine of at least $1,000 up to a maximum of $2,000. But, the fines increase to at least $2,000 up to a maximum of $4,000 when there is a minor in the vehicle or the driver’s BAL is .15 or higher.
  • Third conviction: There is a significant increase in the penalties for a third driving under the influence offense within 10 years of a second conviction. The minimum fine is $2,000, with a maximum of $5,000. If a driver has a BAL of 0.15 or higher or there is a minor in the vehicle, the minimum fine is $4,000. 

Any conviction for driving under the influence after a third conviction carries with it a minimum fine of $2,000 unless the driver has a BAL of 0.15 higher or there was a child in the vehicle. In either of these situations, the fine increases to at least $4,000, but judges can impose fines exceeding the minimum.

Fines are not a person’s only penalties when charged and convicted of impaired driving. Judges wield the authority to imprison individuals found guilty of driving under the influence. First-time offenses can lead to six months in prison, while fourth offenses and beyond result in up to five years.

Vehicle impoundment and loss of driving privileges for impaired driving

There were 5,746 vehicle collisions in 2022 involving drivers impaired by alcohol, drugs, or a combination. Ten percent of the crashes occurred in the Spring, with Hillsborough as one of the counties with the most impaired-driving accidents with 54. Only Pinellas and Duval counties had more crashes attributed to driving under the influence.

In an effort to deter motorists from driving while impaired, Florida law imposes penalties in addition to fines and imprisonment. Upon conviction, a driver caught operating a vehicle while impaired faces a loss of driving privileges. A first offense results in a license revocation of at least 180 days and as long as one year.

If you have an accident that injures another person, your driving privileges will be revoked for at least three years. The revocation period gets longer for each conviction up to the fourth. A fourth conviction for driving under the influence results in mandatory permanent loss of driving privileges.

Unless the family of a motorist charged with driving under the influence relies on the motor vehicle for transportation, there is a 10-day impoundment or immobilization of the vehicle for a first offense. A second conviction within five years of the first results in a 30-day impoundment or immobilization. A third offense within 10 years of the second means the vehicle is off the road for 90 days.

Resources in Tampa this holiday season

You can enjoy the holiday festivities without risking an accident or the criminal penalties of impaired driving. Ride-sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft, are an alternative to driving, but there are other options available in the Tampa area to get you home safely during the holiday season, including the following:

  • Tow-to-Go: If you have too much to drink at a holiday party, the American Automobile Association lets members and non-members use a toll-free telephone number to arrange for a AAA tow truck to transport a driver and vehicle up to 10 miles to their home. The Tow-to-Go service is a last resort option.
  • Zingo Designated Driver Service: A different car service that brings a driver to you via a mini motorcycle. The driver places the foldable motorcycle into the trunk of your car and drives you home.
  • HART bus and trolley service: The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit operates bus and trolley service throughout the holiday season. Use it instead of driving when participating in holiday festivities this year.

The best way to enjoy parties and festivities this season is to have a designated driver in your group.

Turn to a Tampa personal injury attorney when accidents occur

If you or a loved one is injured in an accident during the holidays, KFB Law can help. Learn more about compensation available to accident victims during a free consultation by contacting KFB Law today.