State Legislators Berman, Anderson Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Combat Impaired Driver Deaths

State Legislators Berman, Anderson Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Combat Impaired Driver Deaths

Jackson Bakich
Jackson Bakich
January 17, 2024

State Senator Lori Berman (D-FL) and State Representative Adam Anderson (R-FL) introduced SB 1172 and HB 961 respectively to expand the legal definition of impairment as it relates to DUI (driving under the influence) charges.

The bill is formally known as Operating Vehicles and Vessels Under the Influence. It was introduced on Jan. 9.

The bill looks to address the 56% increase in traffic deaths from 2013 to 2021. According to the bipartisan, bicameral press release, 40% of those fatalities come from impaired drivers. It would also increase punishments for those who use two or more impairing substances at once.

The substances in question are defined in S. 877. 111.

State Sen. Berman that this bill will make people “think twice” about driving under the influence.

“Driving under the influence is never a good idea – it can be deadly and ruin lives forever. This legislation will make people think twice before driving while impaired. The safety of the public is always my first priority – this policy is long overdue to protect the lives of drivers, pedestrians and everyone who use Florida’s roadways,” said Senator Lori Berman.

Additionally, Rep. Anderson said that this bill is a “critical step” to safer roads.

"With traffic fatalities in Florida hitting a record high in 2021, it's clear that our existing laws need to evolve," stated Rep. Anderson. "Our bill aims to close loopholes by including 'any impairing substance' in the DUI criteria, thus enabling prosecution for impairment beyond the substances currently listed. It's a critical step towards making our roads safer.

"Part of our approach includes acknowledging the complexities of prescription medication use," added Rep. Anderson. "We've provided an affirmative defense for those legally prescribed medications, ensuring that individuals are not unjustly penalized."

Furthermore, the bill follows the Governor’s Highway Safety Association’s recommendation on poly-drug users.

“Florida has long trailed behind other states with regards to its legislation against impaired driving," said Garett Berman, Executive Director of the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association. “This bill brings the State of Florida to the forefront of states seeking to combat alcohol and drug impaired impaired driving, by removing loopholes in the law and ensuring drivers are prosecuted for driving impaired, while safeguarding motorists, pedestrians, and the general public.”

The bill looks to follow in the footsteps of 46 out of 50 U.S. states that have adopted similar legislation.

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Jackson Bakich

Jackson Bakich

Born in Orlando but raised in Lake County, Florida, Jackson Bakich is currently a senior at Florida State University. Growing up in the sunshine state, Bakich co-hosted the political talk radio show "Lake County Roundtable" (WLBE) and was a frequent guest for "Lake County Sports Show" (WQBQ). Currently, he is the Sports Editor of the FSView and the co-host of "Tomahawk Talk" (WVFS), a sports talk radio program covering Florida State athletics in Tallahassee.

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