In 2020, there were 746 fatalities from crashes involving alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both in Florida – a decrease of more than 33 percent from 2019. Even though impaired-driving fatalities decreased last year, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is not letting off the gas for impaired-driving education and prevention efforts in 2021.
Throughout the month of March, when Florida traditionally sees an increase in travel and visitors due to spring break, FLHSMV and its division of the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) are leading the Never Drive Impaired campaign in partnership with state agencies and safety organizations across Florida to remind motorists that there is never an excuse to drive impaired. The campaign aims to reduce impaired-driving crashes and fatalities through education and prevention messaging, including creative graphic elements that squash the common misconceptions and rationalizations that many motorists use to justify impaired driving.
“Choosing to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs can have serious, life-altering consequences. You can hurt yourself. You can hurt others,” said FLHSMV Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes. “Keep our roads, loved ones, and yourself safe by pledging to Never Drive Impaired. No Excuses.”
As a result of changes in driving behavior due to the pandemic, the total number of impaired-driving crashes, fatalities, and injuries that involved drugs, alcohol, or a combination of drugs and alcohol, all declined from 2019 to 2020. The total number of impaired-driving crashes decreased by more than 16 percent, impaired-driving fatalities from crashes decreased by more than 33 percent and impaired-driving injuries from crashes decreased by more than 26 percent.
“The tragedies caused by impaired drivers on our roadways haunt the families who will never have the chance to hug their loved ones again,” said Colonel Gene S. Spaulding, Director of the Florida Highway Patrol. “If you are impaired in any capacity, don’t drive – no excuses.”
Under Florida law, Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of alcoholic beverages, chemical substances, or controlled substances is one offense, proved by impairment of normal faculties or an unlawful blood alcohol or breath alcohol level of .08 or above. The penalties upon conviction are the same, regardless of the manner in which the offense is proven. Drivers under the age of 21 with a blood alcohol level of 0.02 percent or more will have their license immediately suspended for six months for a first offense. A second offense will result in a one-year suspension.
“As Florida welcomes visitors this spring and throughout the year, we urge everyone to never drive impaired while enjoying our state’s scenic destinations,” said Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin J. Thibault, P.E. “There is never an excuse to put other lives at risk. Always drive sober or use a ride share service so everyone can stay safe.”
FDOT will also be supporting the campaign with impaired-driving prevention education and awareness efforts including radio PSAs, social media PSAs, billboards, and more statewide. FDOT encourages motorists to use the free Florida 511 app for real-time traffic information to plan travel this spring and throughout the year.