Monday's letters: Pass ignition interlock law for drunk drivers

Published Sept. 27, 2016

The case for ignition interlock

A step to curb drunken driving

The National Highway Safety Administration recently announced that drunken driving killed 10,265 people in 2015. That's one death every 51 minutes. The news in Florida is even worse. DUI deaths are up 14.8 percent in the Sunshine State over last year, and we still don't have mandatory ignition interlock devices for all first-time offenders.

An ignition interlock device is basically a breathalyzer for an individual's vehicle. These small, in-car devices prevent someone who is impaired from starting his or her car. The driver blows into the device, and the car will not start if alcohol is detected at a pre-set level.

Twenty-eight states and Washington, D.C., have all-offender ignition interlock laws and have seen dramatic decreases in drunken driving deaths. West Virginia, for example, has reduced drunken driving fatalities by 50 percent. MADD Florida hopes that the Legislature will take action in 2017 and make Florida the 29th state with this lifesaving law.

Already in Florida, 49,744 drunken driving attempts were prevented by an ignition interlock. (Under Florida's current law, ignition interlocks are required for repeat offenders and first offenders with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 — nearly twice the nationwide illegal level of 0.08 BAC.)

Seven years ago I lost my father, Dr. Robert Geronemus, a prominent doctor specializing in kidney disease, to a drunken driver. He was crossing the street after dining with colleagues attending a medical conference in Miami.

I will never get over that loss but I have dedicated my life to MADD's commitment to "creating a future of no more victims!" Requiring ignition interlocks for all drunken drivers is just good common sense.

Heather Geronemus, Plantation

The writer is a MADD national board member.

Election 2016

There ought to be a law

The other night, my wife and I and four other couples got together for dinner. The discussion centered on the upcoming elections and the issues we thought were important for the candidates to discuss with the American people. We put together a list of some things we think are needed to make America strong again:

• Term limits for the U.S. House and Senate, with one six-year term for both.

• A balanced budget every year.

• Eliminate the two-party system and have only three to four months for campaigning, with limits on spending.

• Legalize drugs, supervise the cost and tax them.

• Force healthy people to work at something to receive government dollars — no free ride for anyone.

• Establish term limits for Supreme Court members by age and years in the position (maybe 25 years on the court and age 75).

• Eliminate the sale of assault-type weapons.

• Establish an automatic death penalty, regardless of age, for use of a firearm in a crime in which a death occurs.

• Change the voting age back to 21, except for U.S. service members.

• Reinstate the draft for all men, ages 18 to 24, who are in good health — no buy-outs.

Michael Gettings, Homosassa

Kriseman rebuked over sewage | Sept. 23

Too much development

It should not be surprising to the St. Petersburg City Council, the mayor, building inspectors and everyone else that when the city gives permits to developers to build more high-rise buildings and condo complexes, that these will house thousands of people, congesting our highways, overloading our schools and, most obviously, our sewer systems. Our 100-year-old system wasn't built for this many people, but the building continues. Quit thinking about all the money to be made from development and start thinking about the people already here. As a senior citizen on a fixed income, and with young families depending on welfare and Medicaid to live here and raise their children, we can't afford these fixes. Our No. 1 draw of tourists and retirees will stop when the taxes become too high.

Andrea Vauiso, St. Petersburg

Election 2016

Don't vote just to vote

Seems every election cycle, around this time, there are numerous appeals for everyone to get out and vote. It's a "duty" and "necessity for democracy to function."

Voting for the sake of voting is counterproductive. Voting is a task which should be undertaken only after diligent study of the candidates and issues; using critical thinking to become an informed voter. Otherwise, do everyone a favor and stay home; you're doing more harm than good.

A. J. Brent, Tampa

Former justices oppose marijuana amendment | Sept. 19

Legalize medical marijuana

We trust our doctors, but these five former Florida Supreme Court justices don't. Where Amendment 2 is silent, the state can regulate — that's the law. These justices complain about what doctors do every day in writing a prescription — weigh health risks against the benefit of the medication.

So yes, Amendment 2 would open the door to marijuana use by anyone whose doctor feels that it would help their condition or ailment — that's what doctors do. The justices say that people should wait on the Legislature because medical marijuana does not belong in the Florida Constitution. Well, there are people who are sick and suffering, and the Legislature has failed to act to benefit them. It is time for the people to step up. We have given the Legislature the benefit of the doubt for too long. I had lung cancer, and I know that if I would have waited on the Legislature I might be dead right now. (Ask anyone who has had aggressive chemo about how hard it is to cope with.)

These former justices should know better than most that problems can be regulated when they arise, just as the government does with any business. But we shouldn't make up problems in advance.

Joe Redner, Tampa