Defensive Driving Resource

What Should Happen to Florida Drivers Who Continue to Drive on a Suspended License?

Mark Lindsay, driving his motorcycle on U.S. 27 with passenger MacKenzie Chartrand at speeds over 110 mph, lost control and crashed, killing himself and his passenger on August 21st of last year.  Lindsay, who had racked up multiple Florida speeding tickets in the past, was driving on a suspended license.  His license had been suspended a total of eight times.

This does not surprise many of us who work in the field of traffic safety education, since these drivers occasionally end up in our classes and boast about how many unpaid tickets they have or how many times their license has been suspended.  If a red light doesn’t stop a driver from running it, the same can certainly be said of driver license suspensions and revocations:  they won’t stop a person from driving illegally.

Keeping dangerous drivers off Florida’s roadways is the job of law enforcement, but there are simply too many people breaking the laws at any given time and too few law enforcement personnel to catch all of the speeders, stop sign runners, and other traffic violators.  Even so, the number of license suspensions and revocations is on the rise.  According to Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, suspensions and revocations issued in fiscal year 2007-2008 were about 30 percent higher than the previous year.  As the economy worsens and more people allow their licenses to be suspended for unpaid fines, these numbers will probably continue to grow.

Another obstacle to removing these suspended and revoked drivers from the roadway is that the state has weakened the consequences of driving on a suspended / revoked license in order to relieve court dockets that are overflowing, especially in more populous counties like Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach.  A new law passed last year by the Florida legislature reduces jail time for drivers whose licenses are suspended or revoked for a failure to pay fines. The outcome of this new law is that the majority of drivers who lose their driving privilege three or more times for this reason will be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor instead of a felony, reducing the maximum jail sentence from five years to one.  While this will help free up prison beds and reduce the workload for many courts, it won’t make Florida’s roadways any safer.

So just what should happen to Florida drivers who ignore the law and arrogantly continue to drive with a non-valid license?  What can be done if no one is going to physically remove them from the streets?  The answer might be to “remove the streets from them” by taking away their wheels.

State Rep. Ari Porth, D-Coral Springs, filed a bill last week that would give authorities a number of useful options with regard to drivers who insist on driving with a suspended or revoked license.  One option would be to impound their vehicle or place a boot on it until their license becomes valid again.  (For some drivers, that would mean never.)

Rep. Porth has sponsored similar legislation three times in the past, but each time his proposal has been defeated.  In this latest round, he has responded to critics of his proposal by including a hardship provision that would allow a vehicle to be driven if it was the only means of transportation available to the family of the driver whose license is suspended or revoked.  Perhaps this added measure of flexibility will enable Rep. Porth’s bill to pass, giving authorities the opportunity to try a solution that hasn’t been tried before.

Florida drivers with a suspended or revoked license must currently show proof of enrollment in a DHSMV approved Advanced Driver Improvement course before they are allowed to obtain a hardship license.

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