List: Cities Where Texas Drunk Drivers Die Most Frequently

texas-dui-fatalitiesA Texas law firm has been paying attention to drunk driving in the state, in order to answer the question: Where are you most likely to be killed by a drunk driver in Texas?

Why ask the question? Drunk drivers are dangerous everywhere – they injure, kill, and cause sorrow and distress in every city and county.  But perhaps focusing on fatalities will get the attention of those who have the ability to prevent this crime. A drunk driver, after all, kills one person every 51 minutes in this country.

The list, compiled by Sutliff & Stout Injury and Accident Law Firm, uses TXDOT data to calculate which major towns and cities have the most DUI fatalities per capita.

As it turns out, these cities are the ones that came out the worst. The numbers refer to the number of alcohol-related fatalities per 100,000 population.

  • Odessa 6.26
  • Midland 6.19
  • Dallas 5.88
  • San Marcos 5.21
  • San Antonio 5.15
  • Baytown 5.12
  • Longview 5.09
  • Waco 4.63
  • Houston 4.36
  • Lubbock 4.1

What can we learn from this list? The cities range from Houston, with a population of 2.3 million, to San Marcos, which has just 62,000 people.  Geographically they are all over the map, and their economic and demographic profiles are different.

Here are some possible factors that unite this cities in this unhappy group:

  • Culture of Drinking and Drunk Driving. Drinking is more popular in some places than others, and drunk driving is tolerated more in some places as well. No one knows exactly why this is, but it might be that people tend to be more easygoing about letting friends drive drunk in Odessa than they are in, say, Frisco or Brownsville, which have low DUI fatality numbers.
  • Enforcement presence. If you know you are going to get pulled over, you’re more likely to watch what you drink before driving.  Cities with active sobriety checkpoints and DUI patrols not only catch more drunk drivers, but also warn other drivers to behave themselves.
  • Interlock compliance. Texas has a good all-offender ignition interlock law. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. All those convicted of DUI are required to install the device. But not all offenders do. It’s very possible that some municipalities have a more lax oversight on interlock compliance, which means that it’s easier for first offenders to become repeat offenders who cause DUI fatalities.

There may be other reason, and we hope that other public-spirited institutions follow the example of Sutliff & Stout and dig into the data to reveal more about how and why we drink and drive, and how we can prevent it.

Driving Drunk With a Child in the Car Equals Child Abuse

new-mexico-child-endangerment

You may love your children more than anything in the world. You may treat them well, keeping them out of harm and never laying a hand on them.  But if you let them ride in a car that you’re driving drunk, you’re a child abuser.

So says, most recently, the Las Cruces Police.  A man from Hatch, New Mexico was driving in Las Cruces recently when, according to reports the police received, he swerved across a couple of lanes on Solano Drive.  When he was stopped, the police found several cans of beer, an odor of alcohol – and two boys, aged 8 and 10.

Once the failed the breathalyzer test, he was charged with two counts of child abuse as well as aggravated DWI.

Unlike most states, New Mexico does not have a specific child endangerment law which raises the penalties if a drunk driver has minors in the vehicle.  However, drivers can be charged with child abuse, which is a third degree felony in New Mexico, carrying a 3-year prison sentence and fines of up to $5,000.  And that is just for a first offense.

The need for such laws is understandable: as bad as drunk driving is, it’s worse when adults betray the trust that children place in them by endangering them.

Here, though, is another way to look at it: all drunk driving can be child endangerment. Impaired drivers don’t just risk their own lives or those of their passengers. They’re also placing at risk other drivers, other passengers, and pedestrians.  Those can include children, and sadly, they often have.

All DWI laws exist for the protection of innocents. The most vulnerable of us need the extra protection afforded by child endangerment and child abuse laws. For that reason, road safety advocates have for many years pressed for stronger measures for those who put young lives at risk.

Tennessee DUI Drivers: No Alcohol Sales for 8 Years?

tennessee-dui-no-alcohol-saleWhat’s the cause of drunk driving? You could say it’s alcohol, because you can’t drive drunk without it. However, if that’s true, you could also say that vehicles are the cause, because you need those too. In fact, impaired driving – particularly repeat drunk driving – is a complex problem requiring a varied set of solutions.

Some legislators in Tennessee have decided that selling alcohol to convicted drunk drivers is what causes repeat offenses. Their prevention strategy is to prohibit alcohol sales to anyone convicted of a Tennessee DUI.

  • First offense – prohibition for one year
  • Second offense – prohibition for two years
  • Third offense – prohibition for eight years

The original bill, HB 1698, stipulated a lifetime ban for a third offense, but that was obviously deemed too harsh, and it was amended.

How the Alcohol Sale Ban Would Work

If convicted for a Tennessee DUI, an offender would receive a new license with a red strip on it, indicating that the possessor is banned from buying alcohol. Presumably the regular license would be restored after the restriction period is over.

Yes, But Will it Work?

There is evidence that various restrictions on alcohol sales can be helpful in reducing drunk driving on the whole. For instance, a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that higher alcohol taxes save lives on the road.

However, people have been known to obtain alcohol despite legal prohibitions – witness the amount of underage drinking in this country.

Better Solution: Longer Ignition Interlock Periods

Ultimately, the problem isn’t the purchase of the alcohol but the use of it while driving. The best way to address that crime is with an ignition interlock, which prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. Tennessee already has a good interlock law, but if legislators want to prevent a motorist from driving drunk for 8 years, then an 8-year interlock term would be a better idea than an 8-year prohibition on alcohol sales. The interlock protects the public from the offender’s decision to drink and drive

We all understand that, when it comes to impaired drivers taking lives on Tennessee roads, Something Must Be Done. But level heads should prevail and preventions chosen which are proven to work. That’s what Tennessee needs and deserves.

Driving on 4 Flat Tires: “Is Something Wrong, Officer?”

driving-with-four-flat-tires-duiMaybe you read about a winner of the Miss Washington pageant who had to give up her crown in 2016 because she was arrested for DUI after she was pulled over for driving with two flat tires.

Recently Florida was the scene of an event twice as dramatic. A motorist was arrested in Port Lucie for driving with four flat tires. The woman was pulled over not just for the flats, but for driving under 10 miles an hour in a 40 mph zone.

What makes the story a bit scary is that the woman in question did not think anything was wrong. If you’ve ever driven with one flat tire, much less four, you know that it does not feel normal.

Alcohol, however, dulls the senses. It dulls the hearing, so she might not have heard the rims clanging on the asphalt. It diminishes concentration, which is why she might not have noticed that the 2012 Honda CR-V was a bit harder to steer than usual.

That’s scary because if she was oblivious to the effects of driving with four flat tires, she would have been oblivious to any car or pedestrian she hit as well.

Fortunately, no cars or people were hit. But the fact remains that it’s possible to get in a car and drive despite a level of impairment that is almost incapacitating. That is the reason that ignition interlocks are the preferred response to drunk driving. It’s far too easy to drive a car drunk. Having an ignition interlock makes it impossible, which helps protect society from repeat drunk drivers.

Florida should require ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenses, as 31 states now do. It’s up to concerned citizens to make this happen. The drunk drivers aren’t listening – as we’ve just seen, they can’t even hear.

How Not to Refuse a Florida Sobriety Test: Bite the Cop

refuse-florida-sobriety-test-biteDUI patrol is not an easy job. It was particularly hard for some Leon County officers who responded to a call after a crash in Tallahassee. It appears an SUV had run a car off the road. The SUV’s  driver was unable to focus or speak.

Worse, when deputies tried to put her in the patrol car, she tried to bite them.

Eventually the officers had to call for backup to subdue the suspect.

The point is not that people should not bite police officers – though we stand by that rule as well. What’s  scary is that a person can get drunk enough so that she can’t finish a sentence, can’t control her actions, and can’t comprehend the trouble she’s in, yet she can drive a vehicle. And that’s the way it will be until some kind of technology arrives that prevents someone drunk from driving any vehicle.

As it stands, there is technology to keep drunks from driving some vehicles – those equipped with an ignition interlock. Right now 30 states mandate the devices for all drunk driving offenses. Florida does not – only first-time convicted drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or over are required to use the device. With repeat offenders it’s .08, as it should be.

The extreme nature of this encounter underscores the danger that alcohol poses on the road. A driver who is not aware that she’s broken the law and caused damage is a driver who could easily kill. Fortunately, no one was injured. A bike path was nearby, so it could have been much worse.

Florida also does not require an ignition interlock for refusing a sobriety test – even if that includes biting the tester. Legislators need to get together in Florida and pass some new drunk driving laws.

Ones with teeth.

 

Cops: When Truck Hits House, “The House is Rarely At Fault”

Some collisions are hard to figure out. Others seem to scream out the cause. That’s the case with a truck that was recently found inserted into the side of a house in Moses Lake, Washington. Anyone looking at the scene would immediately conclude: drunk driver.

And that’s the correct conclusion. The driver was arrested for DUI last week. Fortunately, no one was injured, though the house and the truck will need a lot of repair.

truck-hits-house

Image: Moses Lake Police Dept. Facebook Page

The Moses Lake Police Department documented the incident with a bit of dry humor on their Facebook page, noting, “In our experience with these situations, the house is rarely at fault.”

So the driver, and not the house, will have to face the consequences of a Washington DUI, which includes an ignition interlock requirement, even for a first offense.  There is a minimum fine of $940, which could go as high as $5,000, as well as probation. If this is not the driver’s first offense, the penalties go much higher.

Amusing as the Facebook comment is, let’s remember that if the house is rarely at fault, neither are the people inside the house. They might have been severely injured or killed if the pickup had been going faster. It’s sad to note, but you might not even be safe from drunk drivers inside your own home.

Man Gets DUI on California Freeway – On a Horse

 

California-dui-on-a-horseRecently the California Highway Patrol made one of the thousands of DUI arrests it makes each year. What was different was that the driver was on a horse at the time.

A man rode his horse onto State Route 91 in Long Beach. Upon his fairly immediate arrest  he was tested and found to be  more than twice over the legal .08 limit, with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.21.

The charge was riding a horse under the influence: RHUI?

In California, you are technically allowed to ride an animal on a highway, believe it or not. California Motor Vehicle Code 21050 says:

Every person riding or driving an animal upon a highway has all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle.

Those duties include not obstructing traffic. Since any horse will block traffic on a fast-moving Los Angeles freeway, it’s safe to say that horses are unwelcome. Apart from that, riders must obey the rules of the road, which include signaling turns and stops, obeying signs, and of course – not being drunk. The driver in this case was in clear violation.

Hence the CHP’s tweet:

And that is as it should be. A drunk horse rider is a danger to himself and others in most circumstances, and even more on State Route 91. For that reason, the rider will face some sort of DUI-related charges.

Note: Los Angeles is one of four California counties which requires ignition interlocks – devices preventing a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking – after a DUI.

Anyone know how to put an ignition interlock on a horse?

Drive High? Yes, You Can Be Arrested For California Drunk Driving

California drunk driving It’s been a big month in California: on January 1st, marijuana became legal for recreational use. While people who enjoy using cannabis are celebrating the legalization, anti-drunk driving advocates are concerned that people don’t understand California drunk driving laws. They’d like to remind everyone that if you drive high, you’ll get a DUI.

DUI is defined as driving under the influence, and that includes driving under the influence of alcohol, opiates, and yes, marijuana. As soon as the calendar flipped over to January 1st, the state switched from preparing for legalization to preparing for a flood of high drivers to hit the roads.

To fight back against drugged driving the state has taken a few immediate steps.

Freeway signs broadcast an anti-drugged driving message

If you’re driving on the freeways in California you may have seen new messages broadcasting across the Amber Alert display signs. Certain areas have the message, “Drive high, get a DUI,” scrolling on repeat so drivers are reminded that it might be legal to smoke marijuana, but it’s not legal to drive after you do.

They’re on social media

Law enforcement like the LA County Sheriff’s office are online and sharing a hashtag via sites like Facebook and Twitter. The tag #DUIDoesntJustMeanBooze has been shared and retweeted widely, and they’d like drivers to know that any drug, including over the counter medications and prescribed medications, can impaired your driving skills.

California was the sixth state to legalize marijuana. Although the process of legalization may have been relatively easy, it’s not easy to curtail those people who don’t think that driving high is as big of a deal as driving under the influence of alcohol.

Keep in mind throughout this year and beyond that driving high is just as dangerous as driving drunk, and you can be charged with California drunk driving if you are drunk or high. If you’re planning on using marijuana or you’ve taken prescription drugs, you shouldn’t drive at all.

The Kansas House Passes Some Schizoid Drinking Bills

jekyll-and-hyde-kansas-alcohol-lawsThe Kansas House of Representatives recently passed two bills regarding alcohol. The bills might not be designed to achieve opposite goals, but that’s effectively what they’re doing.

One bill would increase penalties for habitual drunk drivers who are judged guilty of voluntary manslaughter.

The bill was passed in the wake of a tragic crash in which a 24-year-old woman, Caitlin Vogel, was killed by a repeat drunk driver who had several prior offenses. The offender, James McAllister, was sentenced to less than 10 years in prison, a fate which enraged Vogel’s family and friends. The new bill is an attempt to fix what was regarded as too-soft treatment of persistent drunk drivers who harm or kill.

The other law has the no-doubt unintended effect of increasing drunk driving. It allows restaurants to begin serving alcohol at 6 a.m. rather than 9, as is currently allowed. The reasoning is that Kansas is losing breakfast and brunch business to surrounding states.

A Jekyll-and-Hyde View of Drunk Driving

Taken together, the bills reflect a strange split-personality view of drunk driving. On the one hand, the practice of serving alcohol in restaurants at 6 a.m. does not seem to suggest an increase in drunk driving to the Kansas legislators who voted for that bill. Experts would disagree. A recent report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine states unequivocally that “state and local governments should take appropriate steps to limit or reduce alcohol availability, including … the days and hours of alcohol sales.”  This is one of several strategies for reducing drunk driving in the US. Others include more taxes on alcohol, ignition interlocks, and a lower blood alcohol concentration limit.

On the other hand, those who actually drink and drive should be severely punished – but the bill only addresses those who are already repeat offenders and who do serious harm. This is the extreme end of the spectrum. There’s a good case for strong punishments for those who kill while driving drunk, but mainly to take such dangerous offenders off the roads. It’s doubtful that other drivers will learn of the extreme punishment of a DUI killer and decide not to have that extra beer before getting behind the wheel. In other words, the DUI manslaughter bill will probably not reduce the number of drunk drivers on the road by more than one.

Meanwhile, selling alcohol at 6 a.m. might put a few more on the road.

Kansas legislators need to read the reports by the National Academies, MADD, the NTSB, NHTSA, and other safety organizations. All of them recommend a well-administered all-offender ignition interlock program, more restricted alcohol sales, and prevention wherever possible. Boosting liquor sales and then coming down hard on DUI killers isn’t a strategy that works.

When Will The US Finally End Drunk Driving?

end drunk driving Drunk driving has been a problem for as long as cars have been on the road, but no one managed to get a handle on it until the 1980s. That’s when Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) stepped in and brought an about face to the growing issue of drunk driving in the United States. Since that time lawmakers, law enforcement, anti-drunk driving groups, and health experts have all been pushing to end drunk driving for good.

One set of experts just released a report and recommendations that they feel will eventually end drunk driving in the United States. Put out by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the report is called, “Getting to Zero Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fatalities.”

The three main recommendations of this report including lowering the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC), eliminating off-site alcohol sales, and passing sweeping ignition interlock reform.

Lowering the BAC in the United States

The report recommends that all states should drop their legal BAC to .05. This isn’t a new idea, because the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has been asking states to lower the BAC for several years.

Utah was the first state in the US who listened to this advice, and they’ve already stepped up and become the first to officially lower their legal BAC to .05. The change isn’t due to take place until December 30th, 2018, and there has been opposition to what some see as a drastic change.

But the reasoning behind dropping the legal BAC is solid: because alcohol affects everyone differently, one person may only need one or two drinks to be legally impaired. Any amount of alcohol has the power to affect your driving skills, and lowering the BAC would mean people may really think before they drink and drive.

Removing alcohol sales from gas stations

It’s easy to buy alcohol when it’s as available as gas for your car, and when you put alcohol in a gas station, it makes it all too tempting to drink it while you’re driving. The report stated that removing alcohol from gas stations and drive-through stores would make it less likely people would drink and drive.

Ignition interlocks in all states

All states have some sort of ignition interlock law, but not all states require ignition interlocks for all offenders. The report recommends that all offenders, even first-time offenders who are arrested with a .08 BAC, are required to use the device to prevent them from driving drunk again.

There’s hope in the fact that drunk driving in the United States has decreased since the 1980s. It’s just disheartening that there’s still thousands upon thousands of people who make the choice to drive drunk every year considering the public education, strict laws, and technology like ignition interlocks to stop them. If the recommendations from this report are taken seriously and put into place by lawmakers in the USA, this could be the first glimmer of hope that they can actually end drunk driving sooner than later.

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