A 53-year-old driver reportedly under the influence of alcohol recently crashed into a West Palm Beach police cruiser, illustrating why driving under the influence of alcohol often results in serious accidents, according to accident attorney David J. Glatthorn, who has handled many case involving car accidents caused by drunk drivers in Florida.
"The dangers of drinking and driving have been documented for decades," Glatthorn said. "Even so, many drivers continue to put themselves and others at risk on the road every time they get behind the wheel after drinking too much alcohol. Fortunately, no one was killed or apparently seriously injured in this recent West Palm Beach accident. But many people often aren't so lucky. Every year, thousands of people are killed in drunk driving accidents nationwide, including hundreds of people in Florida. That's why more clearly needs to be done to educate people about the dangers of drinking and driving."
The driver who caused the recent crash with a West Palm Beach police cruiser faces a felony DUI charge for the accident which took place on Sept. 17 on Australian Avenue, according to the Palm Beach Post.
The driver who caused the accident had an open bottle of wine in the vehicle, according to the Post and the Sun Sentinel. The driver also has a pending court case for driving under the influence of alcohol in March. The latest arrest also includes charges for refusing to submit to a blood test and driving without a license.
Drunk driving accidents account for 31 percent of all traffic fatalities nationwide, according to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility. In 2013, an estimated 10,076 people died nationwide in drunk driving accidents. In Florida, 709 people were killed the same year in motor vehicle accidents involving drivers under the influence of alcohol, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The penalties for drinking and driving in Florida reflect the seriousness of such crimes. The penalty for the first DUI conviction in Florida are fines of $500 to $2,000, driver's license suspended for 180 days to 1 year and possible jail time of 6 to 9 months, according to DUI Driving Laws, an informational website.
According to the same website, the penalty for a second DUI conviction in Florida can be a fine of $1,000 to $4,000, driver's license suspended for 1 to 5 years and possible jail time of 9 months to 1 year. The penalty for a third DUI conviction in Florida can be a fine of $2,000 to $5,000, driver's license suspended for 2 to 10 years and possible jail time of up to 1 year.
But punishing drunk drivers should not be the only approach to this problem, according to attorney Glatthorn. More needs to be done to educate drivers so people don't drink and drive in the first place.
"Sometimes, it's easy to forget that not everyone knows how dangerous drinking and driving can be," Glatthorn said. "Most of us would never think of getting behind the wheel of a car after drinking too much. But others still don't seem to be aware of the risk they're taking when they engage in such dangerous behavior. That's why more clearly needs to be done to educate everyone about the dangers of drinking and driving. This message needs to be repeated again and again and again - Stay alive, don't drink and drive."