The state of Texas has the dubious distinction of being the worst in the union in terms of fatalities and accidents due to impaired driving. Within Texas, Dallas-Fort Worth had the highest number of fatalities and accidents. Groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving and individual lawmakers are trying to make changes to get Texas down from the top position on the list.
Texas Drunk Driving Statistics
According to the Century Council, a non-profit dedicated to fighting drunk driving and underage drinking, 1,213 people in Texas died in drunk driving accidents in 2011. Of those, 175 involved someone under the age of 21 driving while under the influence. Nearly three-quarters of the impaired drivers in these accidents had a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC), registering at 0.15 or higher. The vast majority (84 percent) of these were repeat offenders. The fatalities are high, but the number of drunk drivers pulled over in Texas is significantly higher. Over 85,000 Texans were arrested for drunk driving in 2011. There were 660 teens under the age of 18 arrested for driving while intoxicated. More than 100,000 people were arrested for drunkenness in the state in 2011, and of those, 2,594 were under the age of 18.
Texas Drunk Driving Laws
The Texas Department of Transportation states that a person is hurt or killed every 20 minutes in the state because of drinking and driving. According to Texas law, being intoxicated while driving means having a BAC of 0.08 or higher. Regardless of the BAC, a person can be considered intoxicated and driving under the influence if he or she is impaired in any way. A typical drinker can achieve that level of drunkenness from having two or three drinks in an hour. For women and young people, drinking just one or two drinks in an hour can lead to a BAC of 0.08. A first offense of driving while intoxicated (DWI) can lead to the loss of a driver’s license for up to a year, a fine of $2,000, up to 180 days in jail, and a possible fee for keeping a license. For the second and third offenses, these punishments increase and can go up to $10,000 in fines and 10 years in prison. Someone who is driving under the influence with a child in the car may also be charged with child endangerment.
The MADD organization is one of the biggest advocates for change in Texas when it comes to drunk driving. Its members are currently supporting two bills in the state legislature that it believes will help save lives. One bill would allow for sobriety checkpoints (which are not currently legal in the state). The other bill would require first-time DWI offenders to have an interlock device installed in their car. This is a device that locks the ignition until the driver can prove sobriety. Currently, these are often installed for second and third offenders. Both of the bills are stopped at the moment in committees, but representatives of MADD are pushing hard for them to be passed. In addition to being concerned about the fact that Texas is the worst state for drunk driving, MADD is worried about the way in which public figures are forgiven for drunk driving incidents. A state representative recently injured a cyclist when she drove drunk, and was applauded for apologizing on the floor of the state capitol. A Cowboys defensive lineman was quickly forgiven by the public after killing a teammate in a drunk driving accident. It is this attitude that MADD believes fosters a public perception that drunk driving is not a big deal. While the rates of drunk driving in Texas soar above those in other states, MADD and other concerned citizens continue to fight for more safety measures. They hope that changes in the laws will lead to changes in public attitudes and in the statistics themselves. Hopefully these statistics help those suffering from alcoholism to seek treatment, as well.