Hillsborough County educator Kevin Thomas Smisor was recently arrested for driving the wrong way on Tampa’s notorious Interstate 275. After refusing a breathalyzer, Smisor was booked on charges pending a thorough investigation. For the Sunshine State, this would not be the first time a Florida teacher made headlines for a controversial traffic violation, one where driving under the influence has been called into question. The future, for Chamberlain High’s newest social studies teacher could be bleak if he is found guilty of DUI or other reckless driving charges. There were no reported injuries or fatalities at the time of the event, but the arrest certainly did something to jog the memories of local law enforcement officers who clearly recall numerous I 275 accidents and Florida residents who have been forced to watch teacher after teacher stand accused of behaving irresponsibly behind the wheel.
Florida Educator Arrests
In May of 2013, Florida educator Nancy Louise Vaughn of Estero High School allegedly blew .258 and .273 on two separate breathalyzer tests two hours after initially being stopped for a suspected DUI. Just a few months later she was arrested again for the same charge. She was reportedly making her way to the high school the second time she was arrested and has since been removed from the classroom. Meanwhile, in Collier County, Lake Park Elementary School teacher Amy Jane Daniels was accused of both DUI and cocaine possession.
In early 2014, a Paul R. Smith Middle School Teacher made shocking headlines for allegedly engaging in a DUI scandal where she was reportedly arrested for DUI and partial nudity. From Broward County to Lake County, from South Florida to Central Florida, the education system has been called into question. It is notable to mention that in the case of Nancy Louise Vaughn, the breathalyzers that produced two different readings could have also been called into question by a qualified DUI attorney in her defense. While the rash of teacher DUI’s has definitely rattled the Florida community, law enforcement is shaken by something much worse — the number of auto accident deaths occurring on Interstate 275.
The Death Count on I 275
Wrong way crashes on Interstate 275 are becoming an all too common occurrence and law enforcement is looking into making drastic changes to the stretch of highway. In a startling February 9th DUI event, five students from the University of South Florida were fatally struck by a suspected drunk driver. Since then, five equally shattering fatalities have occurred as a result of I 275 wrong way collisions. Drugs and alcohol were presumed to have played a role in a number of these devastating incidents and investigations are still underway.
In the meantime, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Transportation is making attempts to launch a pilot program which would include the implementation of flashing LED lights and wrong way signs for drivers on the notorious interstate. The spokesperson has pinpointed the road itself as being the root of the problem, citing the fact that two of the crashes involved u-turns at a place in the highway where a median didn’t have to be crossed in order for the driver to turn around. Law enforcement continues to claim the drivers are at fault and that the road itself is perfectly sufficient but many concerned Floridians would disagree. New construction can certainly be a costly endeavor but part of the promotion of driver safety is providing drivers with safely constructed roadways. If the interstate is poorly constructed, Chamberlain High School’s 2014 social studies teacher could have an applicable DUI defense.
The Problem with Teaching and DUI
Florida teachers accused of DUI can fall under misconduct investigations and possibly lose their jobs or teaching privileges. The Florida Department of Education will usually investigate the details of a DUI case involving a professional educator. Disciplinary action in the event of a guilty verdict could have devastating, career altering consequences. For this reason, the allegations against Kevin Thomas Smisor should be thoroughly investigated in return, especially if the road he was driving on was misleading or unsafe.