In Jacksonville, a fun night out can turn deadly at any moment. Brynn Turner and his friend Julio Gomez were walking down Second Street to the beach bars when a car came speeding towards them. The car crashed into them, sending Turner over 100 feet to his death, and injuring Julio.
This isn’t the first time this has happened, and it won’t be the last. Drinking and driving is not an uncommon occurrence in Jacksonville, particularly at the beaches. The River City was ranked as the third-highest city in Florida for fatal DUI crashes per capita, according to a study by Lending Tree.
The driver of the car, Joshua Lovingood, was a local bartender who had been drinking that night. At the time of the crash, his blood-alcohol level (BAH) was measured at 0.228, almost 3 times above the legal limit.
Walking around the scene of the accident, Savannah Taylor, a close friend of Turner’s described the scene as “absolutely horrifying.” “This is just something that shouldn’t have happened,” she says. The area is residential and the speed limit is only 25 mph. Taylor has been going to Jacksonville City Council to push for change. She says “I am frustrated and I do not want anyone to feel how I felt. I do not want this to happen again to anyone else.”
Turner loved to go on surf trips, Taylor says, “He saw opportunities and was deliberate in what he did. It inspired me to live more like him.” He wanted to be a surgeon, and he was a genetics major at Clemson University with a double minor in philosophy and microbiology. Taylor says “Brynn was the least deserving person I know” and he always wanted to help others.
The epicenter of Jacksonville’s DUI epidemic is the beaches area, where the majority of DUI arrests are made, according to Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office arrest data. Some of the streets with the highest arrest rates were Atlantic Boulevard, Beach Boulevard, and Third Street, a portion of A1A. All of these streets lead to and from the popular beach bars.
However, with the concentrated police enforcement and the regularity of DUI’s in the area, law-abiding citizens can fall victim to traffic stops. Lewis Fusco, a local DUI defense attorney for Fusco Law says he has seen situations where, “Individuals who go out and had one beer, which is per se, not illegal to go out and drive. Then have their world turned upside down by the assumption they are drunk.”
The best way drivers can protect themselves is to keep their documents, such as license, registration, and proof of insurance in an easily accessible place. Fusco says “A lot of times police are looking for whether you produce the documents in a timely manner, and are you fumbling for the items.”
The shortest waiting period for sobering up is 45 minutes after each drink. However, some people take longer to sober up than others, so 45 minutes is not the be all end all. If it is in question whether someone should be behind the wheel, the safest thing to do is to wait.
If you see or know of someone drinking and driving, the best thing you can do to save a life is to call local authorities or 911.