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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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DUI offenders must soon carry more insurance
A drunken driver's victim watches as Crist signs the law.
By STEPHANIE GARRY
Published July 20, 2007
Gov. Charlie Crist greets Christopher Prati after the ceremonial signing of a law that requires people convicted of DUI to carry $100,000 worth of liability insurance to pay for victims injuries. Prati was struck from behind on his motorcyle in September 2003 in Dunedin while stopped at a traffic light by a drunk driver. His mother, Pat Prati, (back) and sisters Laura Krieger, (back left), Susan Hingle (right) and Cheryl Prati (far right) look on.
[Times photo: Scott Keeler]
ST. PETERSBURG - Before a drunken driver slammed into his motorcycle as he waited at a red light, Chris Prati managed about 100 people at a bank call center in Tampa.
Now the 40-year-old father of two teenagers requires 24-hour care and lives in a Clearwater nursing home. The 2003 accident left him unable to eat or speak. He communicates through scribbled notes and sign language.
On Thursday, Gov. Charlie Crist met Prati during a ceremony where he signed a law that requires drunken drivers to carry 10 times the liability insurance of other drivers.
Sponsored by Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, and Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Seminole, the law is meant to cover the expenses of DUI victims like Prati, whose injuries have forced his mother to pay out of pocket for some of his care. Medicaid covers most of Prati's costs.
"That law is fantastic because it's putting the responsibility where it lies," Prati's sister, Susan Hingle, 48, said Thursday at the ceremony in front of the St. Petersburg Police Department.
"If the money had been available, he may have been able to walk by now," she said, explaining that advanced therapy could have made the difference during the year after the injury, when the brain is most able to recover.
After Oct. 1, a driving-under-the-influence conviction or guilty plea will require the driver to carry $100,000 of insurance for one injured person, $300,000 for two or more injured people and $50,000 to cover property damage. For the first person injured, that's a tenfold increase in coverage.
The requirement will expire in three years if the driver maintains a clean record.
"DUI is a senseless crime," Crist said to a crowd of activists from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, police and local officials. "It can hurt people like Chris Prati."
In Florida, 1,471 people died after crashes with drunken drivers in 2005, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. More than one-third of drunken drivers are repeat offenders.
Kriseman said that in addition to covering victims' expenses, the threat of more expensive insurance will deter people from the crime.
Matt Bower, a lobbyist for MADD, said people convicted of DUI will have to show proof of insurance to have their driver's licenses reinstated.
"Victims were being forced into bankruptcies, losing their homes and not being able to care for their families," said Bower, chief of staff for Jeffrey Luhrsen, the chairman of the MADD Florida Public Policy Council. "That's what prompted this bill."
The legislation also has an unrelated clause that prohibits insurance companies from charging extra or denying an application for a person who volunteers as a driver for charity.
After signing the law, Crist handed out blue felt pens to politicians, Prati, his mother and three sisters. Prati wrote down his thoughts about meeting Crist on a notepad.
"What do you think of the governor?" asked his sister Laura Krieger, 46, of Clearwater.
"Great," he wrote.
"Will he be good for the state of Florida?" Hingle asked. "He's passing good laws."