Florida Sees Fewer Impaired-Driving Fatalities in 2020, FLHSMV Launches ‘Never Drive Impaired’ Campaign
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In 2020, there were 746 fatalities from crashes involving alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both in Florida – a decrease of more than 33% from 2019. Even though impaired-driving fatalities decreased last year, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) 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%, impaired-driving fatalities from crashes decreased by more than 33%, and impaired-driving injuries from crashes decreased by more than 26%.
“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.
“Florida is the boating capital of the world; however, each year FWC officers respond to far too many tragic boating accidents that could have been prevented. Alcohol or drug use was noted as a contributor in approximately 29% of fatal accidents in 2020,” said Col. Curtis Brown, director of the FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement. “As law enforcement, we are charged with ensuring the public operates safely on our waterways.”
“The Florida Police Chiefs Association (FPCA) and its member agencies join our public safety partners in reminding residents and visitors alike that nothing can ruin a good time faster than drinking and driving. As travel and social gatherings slowly return, we urge everyone to be responsible and not get behind the wheel if you’re intoxicated. Getting home safely is priority number one,” said Satellite Beach Police Chief Jeff Pearson, President, FPCA.
“Florida enjoys an influx of young people each spring to enjoy our beautiful beaches and theme parks. To keep our residents and guests safe, the Florida Sheriffs Association will be partnering with the Florida Highway Patrol and the Florida Police Chiefs Association to educate the public about the dangers of impaired driving. As the president of the Florida Sheriffs Association, I fully endorse the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ Never Drive Impaired campaign,” said Sheriff Bobby Schultz, President, Florida Sheriffs Association.
“Florida remains a top destination for both domestic and international visitors, and Florida’s hospitality industry loves to provide them with safe and memorable guest experiences,” said Carol Dover, President and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA). “The Never Drive Impaired campaign, regularly highlighted during traditional Spring Break periods which may look different this year, is an important reminder about responsible alcohol service, which reduces impaired driving. We urge establishments across our industry to continue their safe and smart operations, and we are proud of our Members who work to do this every single shift.”
“Celebrating safely must always include a sober ride home for all involved,” said Matt Nasworthy, Florida Public Affairs Director, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Plan before you party and never drive impaired.”
Visit FLHSMV’s website for more information and resources for the Never Drive Impaired campaign. FHP will be engaging in increased enforcement of impaired driving throughout the month, and the public is encouraged to report dangerous and impaired drivers by dialing *FHP (*347).
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) provides highway safety and security through excellence in service, education and enforcement. FLHSMV is leading the way to A Safer Florida through the efficient and professional execution of its core mission: the issuance of driver licenses, vehicle tags and titles and operation of the Florida Highway Patrol. To learn more about FLHSMV and the services offered, visit https://www.flhsmv.gov, follow us on Twitter @FLHSMV, find us on Facebook or follow us on Instagram.