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Drunk Driving Deaths Are Down In Florida

Florida drunk driving rates down from last year by 3%, but alcohol-related accidents still leading cause of deaths in America. COURTESY PHOTO: SPORTI ON FLICKR
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

While drunk driving deaths fell in the state of Florida last year, highway safety advocates are continuing to push for government funding for more prevention efforts.

According to a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,133 people died in car accidents in Florida in 2018. 814 of those were caused by drunk driving.

In 2017, 841 of the 3,116 deaths in vehicle accidents in the state involved alcohol.

Alcohol-impaired driving is considered any blood alcohol content over the legal limit of .08.

The NHTSA report showed a 3.6% decrease in traffic fatalities involving drunk drivers nationwide. It is the lowest percentage since the administration started measuring alcohol-related vehicle deaths in 1982.

But even so, drunk driving crashes remain the biggest problem on American roads.

“There has been a slight reduction in impaired driving-related fatalities across the nation,” said Larry Coggins, the regional director of . “However, one thing to remember is, [impaired driving] is still the number one killer on our roads that claims a little bit over 10,500 lives annually.”

To combat alcohol- and drug-impaired driving, the NHTSA gave more than $100,000 to states last December through the . This money is being used to finance law enforcement training courses to better recognize the tell-tale signs of drunk driving.

The grant also provides funding for the use of an ignition interlock device which acts as a breathalyzer and requires the driver to blow into a mouthpiece to start the car.

“One of the things that MADD is a proponent for and is trying to pass in all states, is the use of the ignition interlock device for all offenders,” said Coggins. “Right now 31 states have passed legislation, mandating that first-time DUI offenders must have an ignition interlock device.”

Coggins said those devices work - MADD reports a 16% decline in fatalities in those states that have passed the legislation.

“We continue to work on reminding people that impaired driving, whether it's alcohol, whether it's drugs or prescription medication, continues to be one of the number one killers on our roads,” said Coggins. “It can affect anyone of us at any time and it's something that everyone needs to be cognizant of.”

To see the number of alcohol-related vehicle accident deaths for individual Florida counties, click here.

Copyright 2019 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Manelle Kheireddine is a WUSF/USF Zimmerman School digital news intern for fall 2019.