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Advocates push for alcohol detection systems in cars to prevent drunk driving

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Posted at 12:22 PM, Sep 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-23 15:22:48-04

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.  — The decision to get behind the wheel while impaired can turn out devastating and advocates hope new safety recommendations could solve the problem.

“That was the last picture. That was hours before she was killed,” said Linda Unfried.

Thirty-eight years ago, Unfried’s sister, Josie, was hit and killed by a drunk driver.

“I miss her so much because I could call her for anything. I could call her; we were as close as twins,” said Unfried, the co-founder of Hillsborough County Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

Now, some people think a push for stronger safety measures in cars could be the solution.

“This measure is going to be life-saving for so many, many people,” said Unfried.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is calling for alcohol impairment detection systems to be included in all new cars, per new recommendations released this week.

The recommended measures include requiring systems that would be capable of preventing or limiting a car from being operated if it detects a driver is impaired by alcohol.

This year across all counties, Florida crash data shows there were more than 3,300 impaired driving crashes involving alcohol only.

“Last year, we did about 675 DUI arrests just in the city,” said Sgt. Michael Schade with the St. Petersburg Police Department traffic section. “We had about 275 crashes related to DUI offenses, so that’s obviously something that’s a significant number, and we’re trending about the same way this year.”

Sgt. Schade said it’s a problem they see every day.

“Don’t underestimate what you’re doing,” said Schade. “It’s a significant issue. It happens fast. You don’t realize it sneaks up on you, and you might think you feel okay, but you’re really not.”

Unfried thinks if this technology had been available 38 years ago, it might’ve made a difference in her sister’s case. Until changes come, she said she’ll keep pushing for action.

“It’s a passion, and I will never stop fighting to save lives,” said Unfried.

Mary O'Connell at WFTS first reported this story.