Bill targeting Florida's bad drivers moves forward

| 4/30/2004

The Florida Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved a bill April 20 to get bad drivers to help rescue the state’s 20 trauma centers. It now heads to the full Senate.

Finding additional funds for the state’s trauma centers is a high priority for state lawmakers this year.

S2842, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, would have drivers shoulder more of the burden for the $44 million Florida pays each year for the emergency care, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.

The proposal would increase fines and fees as much as $1,000 for drivers who run red lights, cause crashes, drive a vehicle or boat under the influence of alcohol or otherwise rack up points on their licenses.

If signed into law, the bad driver fees could generate as much as $35 million the first year and $85 million in subsequent years for trauma centers.

A driver’s first drunken driving offense could result in a $500 tax paid annually, in addition to other traffic fines. Those convicted of a second drunken driving offense could see the annual tax jump to $1,000. Drivers with a blood alcohol level of 0.2 percent would face a $1,000 annual tax.

Removed from the bill were proposed higher fines for driving without insurance or without a license. Some legislators felt the provision targeted poor people.