When Miami DJ Ervens Prudent got behind the wheel of his car in the early hours of Sunday morning, he was drunk and about to kill two innocent people while seriously injuring himself. He was attempting to enter the town I live and work in, Coral Gables–attempting to cross one of our most traveled crossroads, the intersection of 8th Street and Douglas.
He did not make it; instead, he plowed his car into the rear end of another car innocently stopped at the light, killing both its driver and passenger–Maria Martinez, 44, and Marlon Gutierrez, both residents Sweetwater. On Friday, police arrested Prudent and charged him with two counts of vehicular manslaughter and two counts of DUI manslaughter. He is being held on a combined $15,000 bond.
Drunk driving is not an accident; it is a crime that needlessly kills more and more people in Florida every year. In 2010, 678 people died in alcohol-related traffic accidents in Florida, accounting for nearly 28% of all traffic-accident deaths, and the numbers increased in 2011 to 716 deaths, accounting for 30% of all traffic-related fatalities.
According to Florida’s Department of Motor Vehicle’s records, in 2011 Florida’s combined law enforcement agencies issued 55,722 tickets for driving under the influence, resulting in convictions 33,625 people. City police departments seem to be the best at nabbing drunk drivers as, of the 55,722 DUI tickets issued in 2011, some 23,649 were issued by police departments, 21,868 were issued by various sheriffs departments, and 9,328 were issued by the Florida Highway Patrol.
And while Miami-Dade’s drivers are certainly at risk of sharing the road with drunk drivers, given 2,274 DUI arrests, we are not even close to being one of the most dangerous counties in the State in terms of drunk drivers. Tampa’s Hillsborough County is the drunk-driving capital of Florida, with 3,256 arrests last year. What makes these statistics even more frightening is the fact that studies show that first-time convicted drunk drivers are really not driving drunk for the first time; rather, their arrest is simply the first time they have been caught. According to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), first-time offenders drink and drive an average of 80 times before they are eventually convicted for DUI.
I have investigated dozens of people who have been injured or lost family members in traffic accidents caused by drunk drivers in Florida, and I cannot understand how with all of the available technology at our disposal this senseless and preventable killer does not get the attention of our Governor and those in Tallahassee with the power to protect us. To read more about how Florida’s criminalization of drunk driving is failing to protect us, please read my recent blog for the Huffington Post: “Shifting from Prosecution to Prevention for Drunk Drivers.”
Last week, Tennessee’s Governor Bill Haslam made Tennessee the 18th state to require ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers whenever they attempt to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or greater. The law goes into effect July 1, 2013, which is not a moment too soon.
But where is Governor Scott when we need him? Governor, studies have shown that ignition interlocks can decrease repeat offenses by 67%. What are you waiting for? I urge all readers of this blog to contact Governor Scott directly by email.
And I have taken the liberty of drafting for you a proposed email. Feel free to copy paste the following, adjusting it as you see fit:
Dear Governor Scott:
As a resident of Florida, I am desperately urging you to strongly support legislation to require ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers. I believe this will save lives by virtually eliminating all repeat drunk driving offenses at minimal cost.
Until you take such a step, no one is really safe from drunk drivers. According to MADD, those who are convicted for drunk driving in Florida have driven drunk at least 80 times prior to being arrested. Suspending drivers’ licenses does not work either, since many of those arrested for DUI were driving without a valid license.
Your colleague Governor Haslam in Tennessee just did it, and so can you. In fact, I will provide the pen. I just need you and Florida’s House and Senate to recognize that DUI accidents are preventable crimes. Think of all the voters you may have saved when you run for reelection. I cannot make any promises, but I know that the Mothers Against Drunk Drivers in Florida would be very pleased.
I know we have not always agreed on some if not most of your legislative initiatives. But let’s put our differences aside for the greater good. Call me, Governor Scott, or write me if you would like to discuss this further.
Our deepest condolences to the families of Ms. Martinez and Mr. Gutierrez and to anyone else who has lost a loved one to a drunk driver. In memory of those who lost their lives–and in particular their fathers–as we celebrate Father’s Day today, please do not drink and drive.
Our office’s Miami lawyers offer free initial consultations, and are pleased to help by answering any legal question you may have. If you have been involved in a traffic accident in Florida involving a driver who was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, please call our office at 305-441-0440 or Email me, Spencer Aronfeld