Earlier in March, Rodney Rheiner, a retired Converse Police Department assistant chief, was killed in San Antonio in an alleged DUI accident. The tragic accident occurred on Tuesday, March 12. As part of their investigation, San Antonio police identified one of the victims as Rodney “Rex” Rheiner, who was the passenger in a Lincoln SUV that was rear-ended at a traffic light on Friesenhahn Drive and Nacogdoches Road.
The crash happened at around 9:30 p.m., shortly after the San Antonio police pulled over a Toyota Tacoma, which then decided to take off. The Toyota was driving at a very high rate of speed when it slammed into the Lincoln SUV as it was stopped at a red light. The driver of the SUV was not identified immediately, but was later identified as 23-year-old Jeanne Coutros.
Rheiner, 59, was immediately transported to Brooke Army Medical Center with life-threatening injuries, but died there soon after. According to SAPD, the driver of the Toyota was a 24-year-old man, who was later arrested. He now faces charges of intoxication manslaughter.
DWI Accident Problem is Ongoing in Bexar County and Texas
The fact of the matter is, Texas has ranked number one in the country with regard to the number of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in the United States, and Bexar County ranks third among all 254 Texas counties again for 2018, which is the last year for which all stats are available. While this is not a statistic that most Texans beam with pride about, it is true, nonetheless. According to the statistics provided by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), drunk driving fatalities totaled 10,874 in 2017, which was a slight increase over the 10,497 drunk driving fatalities in 2016.
Obviously, those who decide to get behind the wheel and drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs cause thousands of deaths and injuries, both nationwide and in Texas every year. In fact, nationwide, an American died in a drunk driving accident every 48 minutes during 2017, which was up slightly from every 50 minutes in 2016. Approximately one-third of all traffic fatalities each year involve a driver who is impaired by alcohol.
In 2017, July had the highest number of alcohol-impaired deaths just ahead of August and September. Overall, 70 percent of fatal drunk driving happened at night., with urban drunk driving accidents occurring more often than rural drunk driving crashes.
Texas Drunk Driving Accident Statistics
Focusing on Texas, according to the NHTSA, in 2017, 1,468 people were killed in drunk driving accidents in Texas, to once again top the nation. The 2017 figure was just slightly higher than the number for 2016, and considerably ahead of the number two state, California, with 1,120 drunk driving fatalities. (Note: the figures reported by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) were slightly lower than those reported by the NHTSA.
The top five counties with the highest number of drunk driving fatalities in 2017 are as follows:
Harris County (151)
Dallas County (95)
Bexar County (53)
Travis County (41)
Tarrant County (32)
Meanwhile, the top five Texas cities with regard to DWI deaths in 2017 were:
San Antonio (49)
Fort Worth (19)
How U.S. Drivers Tend to View Driving Under the Influence?
One problem that may be driving these statistics higher may have to do with the attitude of many U.S. drivers on the issue of driving under the influence. Every year, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducts a Traffic Safety Culture Index. The 2018 Index, released in June 2019, notes that 11 percent of drivers admitted to driving after consuming alcohol within the previous 30 days. That, despite the fact that just over 95 percent of study participants characterized drinking and driving as something that is very or extremely dangerous. The question of driving under the influence of marijuana brought a similar response, with 70 percent of study respondents saying it was dangerous to drive within an hour after smoking marijuana, even though seven percent of them admitted to having done so within the previous 30 days.
In this case, an independent investigation will be conducted, in order to learn other potential factors in the case, including the results of a test or tests to determine the blood-alcohol content of the suspect. In addition to criminal charges against the driver who chose to drive drunk, the family of Rex Rheiner may be entitled to recover for their losses in a wrongful death claim. The aftermath of the accident left little to nothing except debris in its wake.