Fort Myers father rallying for DUI interlock devices

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Tony Bridley with a portrait of his son who died after being hit by a drunk driver.

A Fort Myers father is asking you to help him support change to Florida’s drunk driving laws.

“I remember thinking I’m done,” said pastor Tony Bridley. “I don’t want to live anymore. I’m not going to try anymore.”

Tony Bridley sees his son – also named Tony – and his legacy everyday. Young Tony was a worship leader at the family church, a musician and a member of a dance group.

His father remembers him with a heart of gold, always smiling and as someone who loved looking out for other people. A community guy.

“They just went about the whole city performing and glorifying God.”

23-year-old Tony left church service Memorial Day weekend 2015 to work his shift at McDonald’s but he didn’t return home.

“I was so frightened. I knew something was wrong,” Bridley said.

They found Tony the next morning. He had been struck and killed by a drunk driver.

“To lose a loved one. I saw this all the time. We’ve been given a life sentence, we can’t come back from it,” Bridley said.

The Bridley family isn’t alone in their grief. Florida ranks 14th in the nation for deaths caused by drunk driving.

One group is working to prevent these kinds of deaths.

“Just heartbreaking. It happens every single day in our community,” said Lori Burke, Director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving or M.A.D.D.

M.A.D.D. members are pushing lawmakers to make a change by using ignition interlocks, devices as small as a cellphone.

First time DUI offenders could opt to use an interlock instead of losing their license. This is to encourage better choices among drivers. M.A.D.D. believes the current standard doesn’t cut it.

“Anywhere from 50 to 70 percent of those individuals will continue to drive on a revoked license. So it doesn’t change the behavior.”

The interlock device measures the driver’s blood alcohol count. If the driver fails the test and the car won’t start.

This could prevent the exact mistake that cost Tony his life.

“It’s an incentive. Really what we’re trying to do as an organization is we want to separate drinking from driving.”

M.A.D.D. estimates previous DUI offenders kill more than 600 people a year in Florida.

“Maybe he would’ve changed a habit. We’ll never know, unfortunately.”

The initiative has the potential to save hundreds of lives. For Tony’s father, though, saving even one life is important enough.

“I don’t want to see anyone’s family have to go through this. I would say my son would be grateful and it would be something that could be added to his legacy.”

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