Florida judges may soon have another way to force drunken drivers to get clean and sober by making them have their breath tested twice a day instead of blowing into machines that keep their cars from starting.
The proposal, approved by a FL House committee last week, would allow judges to place repeat DUI offenders into a new program, known elsewhere as "24/7 Sobriety," instead of having ignition interlock devices installed on their vehicles.
State law currently requires interlock devices for drivers with more than one DUI. Judges would have the discretion to order the devices as well as the 24/7 program.
The program outlined in HB 7005, approved unanimously by the House Economic Affairs Committee, would require that drivers submit to twice-daily breath tests, random urinalysis or continuous monitoring devices, such as drug patches or ankle bracelets, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Supporters say the 24/7 abstinence-based programs have shown significant reductions in drunken driving and other alcohol- or drug-related offenses such as domestic violence, and have better compliance rates than the interlock devices.
The proposal is the latest salvo in a vendor-driven fight about possibly expanding the use of ignition interlock devices, already used by more than 10,000 Floridians, to first-time DUI offenders. Vendors have pushed that idea over the objections of state highway safety officials.
But instead of adding to the vendors' market share, an amendment added to HB 7005 last week would lead to the new 24/7 program, thus possibly shrinking the use of interlock devices.
Julie Jones, Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles executive director, who recently lost a court fight to interlock-device vendors, is one of a growing number of driving safety experts who believe the abstinence-based programs are a better way to ensure that repeat offenders clean up their act.
Jones has proposed shifting half of interlock-device users into a 24/7 program and measuring the effectiveness of both programs for five years.
"The current IID [ignition interlock device] program has been very helpful for the treatment of impaired driving offenders. But why limit ourselves to one method that is exclusive to drinking while driving while drugged-driving violations continue to increase?" Jones said recently.
Jones said she was not responsible for the amendment that would give judges the option to impose the 24/7 program instead of the interlock devices, but she did change it so that her department would have to authorize the program.
What do you think? Would you support daily breath tests for repeat offenders in your state?