No License, Big Problem

Shane Eason is a faculty member of FAU’s School of Communication. He is available to discuss the dangers of driving under the influence to youth groups and schools in the South Florida region.

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In a society of overwhelming distances between destinations, driving a vehicle is one of the transportation choices we have. The ownership and operation of a car is the option that is most often taken advantage of, especially in large American metropolitan suburban areas such as South Florida where public transportation is poorly maintained, difficult to navigate and scant at its best.

With millions of adults in the United States, many are licensed drivers who depend on a vehicle. That being said, the family car is an essential tool or piece of equipment. In general, it provides transportation and assistance with a number of provisions and needs for a family or individual, and many of these needs are quite important. Perhaps most important being food and merchandise purchases for the family, transportation to and from a place of employment, transportation of children or family members to educational institutions, dire emergencies and the list reads on.

Often it’s said that driving is not a right, but a privilege. Keeping this statement in mind, people should be forewarned that a driver’s license can be suspended and/or revoked at will, usually by those involved with the granting of the privilege. The state or federal branch of government such as the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) has that authority.

As some of you may know, I was convicted of misdemeanor DUI due to an accident in June 2006. Once convicted of DUI in Florida, there are a number of standard and special probationary conditions that a person must follow that are imposed by the court and DMV. One of the many conditions of my probation, apart from the embarrassment and ridicule from others, is a driving license suspension. This requires that I do not drive at all for the full duration of one year, and upon completion of the ordered license suspension, install an ignition interlock device (IID) into the vehicle I own or have access to. Aside, this is all very difficult, especially for someone that was never in trouble with the law before, but a small price to pay considering what could have been implemented.

For those that do not know, and from what I have learned recently, an IID is a breathalyzer that measures alcohol in the breath and it is installed in a vehicle’s dashboard. Before the vehicle can be started, the driver must breathe into the device. If the analyzed result is over a programmed blood alcohol concentration the vehicle may not start. The device is commonly set at .02 or .04; even cough syrup or mouthwash could put one at this level.

At random times after the engine has been started, the IID will require another breath sample. The purpose of this is to prevent a friend from breathing into the device, enabling the intoxicated person to get behind the wheel and drive away. If the breath sample isn’t provided, or the sample exceeds the ignition interlock’s preset blood alcohol level, the device will log the event, warn the driver and then start up an alarm until the ignition is turned off.

The devices keep a record of the activity on the device and the interlocked vehicle’s electrical system. This record can be printed out or downloaded each time the device’s sensors are calibrated. Authorities may require periodic review of the log and if violations are detected, then additional sanctions can be implemented.

Not having privileges to drive proves to be difficult in South Florida; one should avoid any activity that could take away that privilege, especially drinking and driving. There could be a far worse fate than having to temporarily walk to work, a fate that I have a personal experience with, and lasts forever.

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