Holiday parties, office closings, relatives visiting all lead to one thing-a dramatic increase in drunk driving arrests in the Bay area. The past few months, we’ve already witnessed a rash of wrong-way crashes on the Howard Franklin Bridge. Most recently, a 78-year-old man was arrested for DUI after driving the wrong way on McMullen Booth Road in Pinellas County.
Year after year, the numbers don’t change much. This is the most dangerous time of the year to be driving. Impaired drivers on the roadways coupled with out-of-towners who don’t know the area roads make for a lethal mixture that often ends in tragedy during what should be a joyous time of the year.
And it’s worse in Florida. Would you be surprised to know that Hillsborough County leads the state in both total DUI arrests and crashes caused by both drunk and drugged drivers. Making matters worse, Florida’s rate of repeat drunk drivers is the second highest in the country.
Perhaps that’s due to the fact that Florida has a loophole in its DUI statutes. Buried in the fine print of every DUI ticket is a clause that lets drivers who were just arrested keep driving. The DUI citation actually serves as a temporary driver’s license for 10 days. Advocates against drunk driving believe the loophole allows these drivers to keep repeating the same behavior with little or no tangible consequences.
This weekend Pinellas law enforcement officers conducted their wolf pack operation and nabbed 81 people for various offenses.
Troopers and officers from Florida Highway Patrol Troop C and the Kenneth City, Indian Shores, St. Petersburg, Largo, Tarpon Springs and Gulfport police departments also took part.
The operation was part of the Pinellas sheriff’s ongoing commitment to reduce deaths, injuries, and property damage associated with traffic crashes related to impaired driving. The goal of a wolf pack is to educate drivers and create public awareness about the dangers of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and any chemical or controlled substances.
Here are the results from the DUI wolf pack:
1 Felony Drug Charge
9 Misdemeanor Drug Charges
4 DWLSR Arrest
3 Other Misdemeanor Arrest
50 Other Felony Arrest
81 Total Charges
3 No Insurance
40 Speeding Tickets
1 Open Container
14 Non-Moving Violations
19 Moving Violations
14 DUI Citations
99 Total Citations
That’s a lot of charges for a 24 hour period in one section of Pinellas County. Law enforcement is out there but citizens who have the right but also the responsibility to drive must do their part. The numbers from this weekend demonstrate that this isn’t happening.