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Texas Drunk Driving Statistics

Despite the commendable efforts of groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and individual lawmakers, Texas still has the dubious distinction of the state with the highest number of drunk driving-related deaths. A person is hurt or killed every 20 minutes due to drunk driving in the state.1 While strides have been made, much work still needs to be done in Texas and nationwide.

Drinking and Driving Statistics

According to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting drunk driving and underage drinking, 1,446 people in Texas died in drunk driving accidents in 2014. Of those, 193 involved someone under the age of 21 driving while under the influence. An estimated 70% of impaired drivers in fatal accidents had blood-alcohol concentrations (BAC) of 0.15 or higher and every single one of these was a repeat offender.2,3

In 2014, drunk driving fatalities increased by 8.2% from the prior year, yet the number of arrests decreased. Of the 70,842 Texans arrested for drunk driving in 2014, 434 were younger than 18. A total of 75,764 people were arrested for drunkenness in 2014, of which 434 were younger than age 18.2,3

Teenage Drunk Driving Statistics

  • In 2015, an average of 20% of high school students nationwide rode at least once a month in a car or other vehicle driven by someone who had been drinking alcohol.4
  • In 2015, an average of 7.1% of high school students nationwide drove when drinking alcohol.4
  • Hispanic students had a higher prevalence than white and black students of riding with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.4

Although Texas statewide figures were not included in the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, Fort Worth and Houston were included under large urban school districts. Estimates: 26.2% of high school students in Fort Worth and 28.1% of high school students in Houston rode at least once a month in a car or other vehicle driven by someone who had been drinking alcohol. In Fort Worth, 9.7% of high school students drove when drinking alcohol, and in Houston, this figure was 7%, slightly less than the nationwide average.4

Mexico-U.S. Border Research

The Mexico-U.S. border area spans nearly 2,000 miles and is populated by more than 7 million U.S. residents, predominantly of Mexican American ethnicity. Texas comprises the largest portion by far, bordering four Mexican states: Tamaulipas, Nuevo León, Coahuila and Chihuahua. In Mexico, the legal drinking age is 18, versus 21 in the U.S. Mexican bars within walking distance cater primarily to younger people who travel across the U.S. to Mexican border towns for the purpose of drinking relatively inexpensive alcohol. Compared to those who drink only in the U.S., people living on the U.S. side of the border who drink in Mexico are younger, report significantly more alcohol intake, higher rates of binge drinking and more alcohol problems. When the town of Juárez, which borders El Paso, changed closing time at bars from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m., there was an 89% decrease in the number of people crossing back into the U.S. with a positive BAC. Researchers concluded that people living on the border at the highest risk of alcohol misuse and its consequences are younger and have a propensity for drinking at Mexican bars.5

Prevention Efforts

A MADD and Nationwide survey found that more than 82% of Texas parents surveyed talked to their children about the dangers of riding with a drinking driver, but at least 25% of parents admitted to riding with a drinking driver in the past year. Nearly 55% said they had a drink or two at dinner and drove their children home in the past year. Research has shown that parents are the number one influence on their teens regarding alcohol use, including decisions regarding riding with a driver who has been drinking. Since MADD’s inception in 1980, the organization has been instrumental in the passage of thousands of anti-drunk driving laws and brought to fruition the concept of the designated driver. Local MADD offices endeavor to reduce alcohol-related accidents in many communities and the overall incidence of drunk driving in Texas. Through initiatives like Power of Parents, they have facilitated the conversation between parents and teenagers, which has reduced the incidence of underage drunk-driving accidents in many states.6

On June 19, 2015, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law that requires all drunk driving offenders to install an ignition interlock on their vehicles in order to have their driving privileges restored following an arrest. “The implementation of this law is an important step in creating a safer driving experience for all residents and visitors to the Lone Star State,” Gov. Abbott said. Previously, Texas required ignition interlock devices only for repeat offenders and those with a BAC of 0.15 and above. Championing all-offender interlock laws is an integral component of MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving, launched in 2006. At the inception of this campaign, New Mexico was the only state with such a law, and as of June 2015, Texas was the 25th state to enact this potentially lifesaving law.7

Texas Drunk Driving Laws

According to Texas law, being intoxicated while driving means having a BAC of 0.08 or higher. Regardless of the BAC, a person is 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 adolescents, drinking just one or two drinks in an hour may lead to a BAC of 0.08.1

Driving While Under the Influence (DWI) Fines

Whether you are the driver or the passenger, you can be fined up to $500 for having an open alcohol container in a vehicle. You can be charged with child endangerment for driving while intoxicated if any passengers are 15 or younger. DWI with a child passenger is punishable by a fine as high as $10,000, up to two years in a state jail and loss of driver’s license for 180 days. Punishment for a general DWI is based on the number of convictions.1

First Offense: A fine of up to $2,000, three days to 180 days in jail, loss of driver’s license up to a year and annual fee of $1,000 or $2,000 for three years to retain driver license.1

Second Offense: A fine of up to $4,000, one month to a year in jail, loss of driver’s license up to two years and annual fee of $1,000, $1,500 or $2,000 for three years to retain driver’s license.1

Third Offense: A $10,000 fine, two to 10 years in prison, loss of driver’s license up to two years and annual fee of $1,000, $1,500 or $2,000 for three years to retain driver’s license.1

If you or a loved one has a drinking problem, seek help before you add to the high incidence of DWI in the Lone Star State. With more than 15 locations throughout Texas, The Right Step family of addiction treatment centers is one of the largest in the Southwest. Call us today at 1-844-756-2656.

  1. Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). Texas Department of Transportation website. Accessed August 26, 2016.
  2. Get the Facts: State Map. Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility website. Accessed August 26, 2016.
  3. Texas: Drunk Driving. MADD website. Accessed August 26, 2016.
  4. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance – United States, 2015. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Published June 10, 2016. Accessed August 26, 2016.
  5. Mills BA, Caetano R. Alcohol Use and Related Problems Along the United States–Mexico Border. Alcohol Res. 2016;38(1):79-81.
  6. Martin L., Gutierrez J. Commentary: Back-to-school offers chance to talk to kids about alcohol. American-Statesman. August 26, 2016. Accessed August 26, 2016.
  7. New drunk driving law takes effect in Texas. The Pasadena Citizen website. Published August 31, 2015. Accessed August 26, 2016.
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