Whenever someone makes the decision to get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle after they have been drinking, they have decided to place everyone on the road at risk, including themselves and any passengers that may be in their car. Unfortunately, too many people make this decision, with Texas being among the worst when it comes to dunk driving accidents and fatalities. In fact, the problem in Texas is so bad that alcohol is cited as a factor in nearly 40 percent of all traffic fatalities attributed to alcohol.
There is a lot more talk about the problem these days, and there is a lot more education about drunk driving available now than ever before. And while the overall number of alcohol-related accidents has dropped nationwide over the past decade, the rate in Texas is still far too high. It also has been increasing year-over-year, even as the national rate has been dropping slightly. In 2014, for example, the national number of accidents decreased by one percent from 2013, even as the Texas number rose 8.2 percent.
On average, there is a drunk driving accident every 20 minutes on Texas roads. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics, in 2015, there were 25,479 alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes on Texas roads, with 15,687 injuries and 1,323 fatalities. And that only accounts for accidents in which one or more Texas drivers had a Blood-Alcohol Content (BAC) greater than the legal limit of 0.08%. There may have been many more who were technically below the limit, but who may have been impaired to some degree.
The problem in Texas looks even worse when you factor in that more than 70 percent of impaired drivers in fatal accident had a BAC that was twice the legal limit and that 75% were repeat offenders. More than one-in-five (21 percent) of victims of fatal drunk driving crashes are between the ages of 21 and 25.
Also troubling is that, as the number of drunk driving crashes has increased, the number of arrests was down. Overall, about 90,000 Texas drivers are arrested each year on DUI charges. According to at least one study, the average person drives drunk more than 80 times before they get into an accident or get arrested, which makes the situation potentially very scary.
Texas DUI Laws
However these numbers don’t mean the state of Texas is doing nothing about the problem of drunk driving. In 2015, the Texas legislature passed a law it hopes will improve those troubling statistics. Among the provisions in the new law is one in which many who are convicted of drunk driving will only be eligible for a provisional driver’s license that will require them to install an ignition interlock system, complete with breathalyzer, in their car, so the vehicle can only be started if there is no alcohol in their system. This allows offenders to continue to fulfill their work and family obligations while assuring the public that they’re not driving under the influence. According to MADD, such systems have reduced drunk driving deaths as much as 30-45 percent in some states.
People should also be aware that Texas has what are called “dram shop laws.” While the driver is almost certainly at fault in a drunk driving accident, there are often others who may have been negligent along the line and who should be held responsible. For example, another negligent party could be a bartender who decided to serve the driver too much alcohol. In other cases, it could be someone in a position to prevent the driver from getting behind the wheel. Perhaps someone could have taken the keys and called a cab, but instead handed them the keys and failed to call anyone. In any accident involving someone who was driving drunk, a thorough investigation must be conducted and a number of factors have to be considered.
A lot more must be done to stop drunk driving in Texas. Police departments throughout the state are trying to do their part by conducting more DUI task force operations, but they currently are not permitted to set up sobriety checkpoints. One reason is because courts have ruled that, at a minimum, sobriety checkpoints must be “authorized by a statewide policy governing checkpoints.” There is no statewide policy in Texas. In the end, the people who make the terrible decision to drive drunk must realize that they are putting innocent lives at risk. There need to be stricter laws and better community outreach programs, which means we all must demand that.