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Impaired driving has killed 799 Floridians in 2021

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Posted at 6:14 PM, Dec 22, 2021

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — It’s a crime that kills 10,000 people a year: DUIs.

Now, Pinellas County law enforcement leaders want you to know they’ll be out in force cracking down on impaired drivers from now through the end of September 2022 on roadways countywide.

Linda Unfried has spent 38 years missing her sister, Josie.

“She was only 4’10” but mighty. That girl was mighty and she was so lovable,” Unfried added.

The two sisters were inseparable until one night on her way home from celebrating their parents’ anniversary, Josie was hit by a drunk driver.

“I always wondered why God saved me and not her. I could have been in that car. So there was a reason and I vowed to start this organization to help other families going through hell like we were going through hell,” she added.

The tragedy encouraged Unfried to co-found Hillsborough County’s Mothers Against Drunk Driving chapter where she has spent 38 years begging impaired drivers to think twice before getting behind the wheel.

“It’s such a simple message that after 38 years of saying this message I wonder why people are not listening. It’s frightening,” Unfried added.

So far this year, impaired driving has caused 15,349 crashes in Florida, killing 799 people. It’s a decrease from 2020, but Pinellas County DUI Sergeant Mark Eastty says it’s heartbreaking delivering tragic news to families considering every one of those deaths are preventable.

“You’re watching somebody’s entire life just crumble and you’re the one who has to give them the news,” Sgt. Eastty elaborated.

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Pinellas County deputies say it’s astounding how often people drive impaired considering the widespread availability of rideshare services, even during the pandemic. Last Saturday, in a 10 hour period PCSO arrested 25 people for DUI and that was just in Pinellas County alone.

Deputies are teaming up with FHP and several local police departments to patrol Pinellas County roadways from now until Sept. 30 and they’re already noticing some scary trends.

“Some of the upticks that we’ve seen is daytime DUIs and they’re mostly drug-impaired related,” he explained.

Unfried hopes her family’s story will encourage even just one person to rethink their decision to get behind the wheel.

“It’s like throwing a rock in the water and seeing the ripple effects. It didn’t just shatter and kill Josie. It shattered all our lives. Mine, her daughter who was 13-years-old at the time, and the lives of each of our family members,” Unfried added.