Woman Charged With Driving Wheelchair While Drunk
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 13, 2004
SPRING HILL, FLORIDA--A woman appeared in Hernando County Court last Wednesday charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. This wouldn't have been unusual except for the fact that Cynthia Christensen, 45, was not driving a car or SUV -- she was driving her wheelchair.
On September 21, 2003, Christensen was talking with her fiancée in her driveway when, she claims, her battery-operated Hoveround got stuck in some loose sand. Christensen tried to use her joystick to maneuver the wheelchair onto solid ground, but it hopped the curb and entered the roadway, she said.
The incident would have gone unnoticed if she hadn't collided with a 1992 Ford van that was traveling about 30 mph on the road.
When emergency medical personnel took Christensen to the hospital for stitches on her toe, nurses took routine blood samples. Several weeks later, toxicology reports showed that she had a blood alcohol level of 0.12, which exceeded the legal limit of 0.08.
"This is ridiculous," Christensen told the St. Petersburg Times. She said she drank four beers that evening but does not remember taking her prescribed dosage of Percoset earlier in the day.
Under Florida law, a motor vehicle is defined as any self-propelled vehicle, including a bicycle, motorized scooter or assistive mobility device that runs at 3 mph. This may include a wheelchair like Christensen's.
"At first blush, it appears to meet the definition in the statute," said Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino, whose office is handling the case.
Christensen is scheduled to return to court for her arraignment on February 2.
Related article with photo of Christensen and crash site:
"Wheelchair DUI case fought" (St. Petersburg Times)