A proposed law, known as the “Stupid Motorist Law,” is currently under consideration by officials in Volusia County, Florida, that would levy a hefty fine to deter drivers from attempting to cross flooded roadways during severe weather.
The law, which has already been enacted in several other states, including Arizona, Texas and Ohio, would allow law enforcement to issue fines to motorists who drive around barriers and get stuck in floodwaters or need to be rescued.
The proposal comes after several instances of motorists becoming stranded and requiring rescue due to driving through flooded roadways in the county. This puts not only the drivers at risk but also the emergency responders who are called to rescue them.
“Imagine going down that road as a first responder or as a victim or someone that needed a service… and your first responder can’t even get to you because of other people’s poor decisions or lack of responsibility when it comes to just using good judgment,” Volusia County Councilman Danny Robins told AccuWeather National Reporter Bill Wadell.
If enacted, the law would only be enforced during a declared state of emergency in the county. Law enforcement officers would then have the power to make a case-by-case decision, citing and fining drivers who go around road barriers during floods without a good reason.
A monetary fine of up to $2,000 would be issued for motorists who break the law. And, like in Arizona, the fines and rescue fees collected would be used to offset the cost of emergency services in the county.
Volusia County is located on Florida’s Atlantic coastline, northwest of Orlando. Robins represents this area and says it was hit hard by flooding during Hurricane Ian in 2022. During that time, Robins says there were at least 15 to 20 cars stuck in deep water on roads that had “do not enter” signs. He says if the law is passed, it would be just in time for the height of the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season, and it could potentially save lives and taxpayer dollars this year.
“All this would have to do is deter one, one person from making a poor decision. And it could potentially save a life,” said Robin. “It can also save taxpayer dollars where maybe equipment or emergency vehicles weren’t ruined or submerged in water to go save that person.”
But not everyone in the county has the same feeling about the proposal. Some county residents believe that the law will unfairly punish drivers who find themselves in unexpected circumstances.
Niceie Bullock told WFTV9 that she is not in favor of the proposal. Last fall, she didn’t think her Daytona Beach home would flood, but when it did, she didn’t have a lot of time to react.
“That is absurd,” Bullock told WFTV9. “Be fined for what? Because I am stuck? I need help? That is really crazy. They need to stop that.”
Additionally, at-large representative of the Volusia County Council Jake Johansson said he’s worried about law enforcement deciding who gets fined and who doesn’t.
“I’m going to have a hard time coming to grips with the 18-year-old in the four-wheel-drive having fun and screwing up and the mother who’s just scared to death and makes a bad decision,” Johansson said at Tuesday’s county council meeting, according to FOX35 Orlando.
On Tuesday, the council voted 4-2 to send the proposal back to staff for more research. According to Robins, if the law is passed, it will likely get a new name.
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