BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB)– According to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration, every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes — that’s one person every 50 minutes.
Lieutenant Chris Coram with the Bay County Sheriff’s Office said drunk driving is even more prevalent during the holiday season, and can be easily avoided.
“It’s easy to avoid if you know you’re going to be drinking you certainly don’t need to drive,” said Lieutenant Chris Coram.
Lieutenant Coram has worked at Bay County Sheriff’s Office for 13 years, he said the department is well-equipped for the potential increase in impaired drivers.
“We certainly try to make sure that patrol officers have added focus on concentrating on impaired drivers and knowing what they need to look for, and we have other officers available to assist them in their traffic investigations,” Coram said.
Lieutenant Coram said the punishments if caught driving impaired are severe, resulting in a possible arrest and a suspended license.
Life-changing consequences that could all be prevented by planning ahead.
“We would definitely suggest that people plan to have either a designated driver or they facilitate with a third party driver whether it be Uber or Lyft or just maybe try to stay where they are at if that’s the safest option,” Coram said.
Aside from the criminal sanctions, Brian Connors with Perry & Young law firm warns that paying to settle a DUI in court is no easy feat.
“A jury can award what is called punitive damages, which is a certain type of fine or sanction that punishes your egregious behavior for drinking and driving, and that can be up to 500,000 dollars or three times what the compensatory damages would be. That’s the type of damage that you can’t file bankruptcy for and potentially follow you for the rest of your life,” Connors said.
Connors warned that the bills don’t stop there. If you’re convicted, you will be required to get high-risk SR-22 insurance for at least 3 years.
“There premiums are much higher, so in addition to the criminal penalties and damages you may have to pay, your insurance premiums are going to increase substantially,” Connors said.
Ultimately, both Connors and Coram agreed the cost of a 100 dollar cab or rideshare is far worth the hassle, as opposed to a DUI.