Friday fallout: Here’s What Happens When You Lose Rideshare Services

ride sharing AustinWhen it comes to rideshare services in Austin, Texas, there aren’t a lot of options. That’s because both Uber and Lyft pulled out of the city back in May of 2016.

Why? It all came down to ride sharing regulations imposed upon the companies from the city of Austin, and although Austin did it with the best of intentions, removing ridesharing services as an option for drunk drivers has backfired. Since Austin’s ride sharing network has picked up and left town, one thing has become clear.

Driving while intoxicated (DWI) rates have spiked

According to data from the Austin Police Department, there was an average of 525 drunk driving arrests per month before Uber. A year after Uber came to town, that number had dropped by five percent. The following year they saw an even greater decrease with the number dropping by another twelve percent, averaging out at 438 per month.

Those aren’t just numbers; that’s a decrease of 87 arrests, and because anything can happen when you’re driving drunk, that number can also add up to fewer drunk driving deaths in Austin.

Contrast that data with the data that came in after May 2016, the month Uber and Lyft decided to leave Austin. By that point Uber had been in Austin for two years and drunk driving arrests averaged at 358 per month. Within a few months drunk driving arrests increased by seven and a half percent over the past six months.

Ride sharing is widely known as a safe, convenient way to get home after a night of drinking. Thousands of people use the service every day, and having it suddenly pulled out from your city would be a difficult thing to adjust to. Given the statistics, maybe it’s time for Austin to take another look at their rideshare service restrictions and how they can make it work with rideshare companies.

Dad Lets Young Son Drive To Avoid Drunk Driving Charge

drunk drivingTexas is a state with a well known drunk driving problem and well known drunk drivers. Among some of the offenders you might have heard are the girl who drove a barbie car because her driver’s license was suspended due to drunk driving. Or maybe you’ve seen an article or two about another driver who was stopped when she decided to send inappropriate Snapchats while driving drunk.

Thankfully, Texas took a big step to stop drunk drivers when lawmakers passed an all offender ignition interlock law. That law has probably made a few people think about the consequences of drunk driving, or at least that seems to be the case for a Texas man so afraid of getting arrested he made his young son drive his car.

This past month a driver spotted a vehicle swerving all over the highway in Leander, Texas. He called 911 and police were able to find the vehicle parked at a gas station nearby. As the vehicle left the gas station parking lot, police pulled it over and when they approached they found a young boy sitting behind the wheel. After he was asked why he was driving, he told them his dad asked him to switch seats when they spotted the police car.

Not only was his father drunk, but there was open alcohol in the vehicle. He was arrested for felony drunk driving and because it was his third driving while intoxicated (DWI) arrest in Texas, he’s behind bars.

Apparently this offender didn’t want to mess with Texas DWI penalties again, and it’s going to be even worse for him this time around. Penalties for a three time or more offender include a felony charge, up to $10,000 in fines, up to ten years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, and a two year driver’s license suspension. He’ll also be required to drive with an ignition interlock when he receives his driver’s license back.

Putting your child in the car when you’re drinking is bad judgement, but putting them behind the wheel is even worse. Maybe this offender has learned a valuable lesson about the potential pitfalls of drunk driving, especially with children along for the ride.

Friday Fallout: Drunk Drivers And Victim Blaming? It Happens.

drunk drivers TexasWhat would happen if all drunk drivers blamed their victims? What if, although the driver was responsible for drinking alcohol and getting behind the wheel, and they alone started the car, drove, and crashed into someone, they somehow decided that their victim was to blame for the crash.

You can imagine the devastation felt by the family members of the victim. It’s hard to believe that anyone would do that given the evidence to the contrary. Unfortunately that’s exactly what’s happening in Bryan, Texas.

On October 17th Maria Ramirez was driving down the highway when an alleged drunk driver hit her while entering the highway from an exit ramp. She died from her injuries, and the drunk driver was taken to jail. He’s still there, but he hasn’t been charged yet.

friday-falloutIn response to the crash, Ramirez’s family decided to launch a civil suit against the driver. In any civil suit the person being served has a chance to reply and he did so, stating in a legal document that the crash and the subsequent damages were the fault of Maria Ramirez.

It’s an open court case and the decision could go either way, but it’s safe to say that the counter-claim would be devastating to the family. It’s hard enough to lose your loved one because someone made the careless choice to drink and drive, but to also have to experience a lengthy trial and have to fight over who’s to blame? It’s rubbing salt in a wound that will never heal.

Texas has more than it’s fair share of drunk drivers, and once these drivers cause a crash they’d probably do almost anything to forget about it and resume their lives. Unfortunately for both the driver and the victim, you can’t take it back once you make the decision to drink and drive. If the driver in this case was driving drunk and he successfully manages to blame the victim in a court of law, it’s sets a dangerous precedent for all drivers in Texas.

Friday Fallout: Drinking And Driving, Snapchat, And Snap Decisions

drinking and driving snapchat texas

Image from Huffingtonpost.com

Life moves fast, people get busy, and in the rush of the day-to-day you can make snap decisions that turn out to be crazy decisions. Take drinking and driving for example: given the risk of a deadly crash, the fines, penalties, and suspension of your driver’s license, drunk driving is a crazy decision, yet it’s one thousands of people make every day. But what if, at the same time, you decided to drink, drive, and take topless Snapchat photos of yourself?

It turns out someone has already thought that this combo was a good idea, and that someone is a nineteen year old college student at Texas A&M. She crashed her SUV into an empty police squad car when she was taking the snap, and police arrived shortly after to arrest her.

When the officer showed up at the scene she was trying to put her top back on, she had an open bottle of wine in the vehicle, and there was an odor of alcohol in the car. She failed a sobriety test. She told an officer she had drunk at a friend’s house before she drove, and was sending her boyfriend a Snapchat while stopped at a red light.

friday-falloutIn a case like this there are a host of charges to be laid, and despite the fact that most counties have cell phone ordinances of some kind, the fallout from her drunk drive and Snapchat moment wasn’t as harsh as it could have been. She received a driving while intoxicated (DWI) with an Open Container and a citation for Minor in Possession of Alcohol.

It’s up in the air what types of fines and penalties she’ll receive for drinking and driving, but hopefully her story will discourage people from trying to multitask to the degree of drinking and driving while Snapchatting topless.

The Friday Fallout: Every Friday Guardian Interlock brings you a unique drunk driving case that demonstrates the impact of – or fallout from – drunk driving.

12 Year Old Drives Drunk: Time For Voluntary Ignition Interlocks

Teen drinkingDid you know some people voluntarily install an ignition interlock in their vehicle? Whether they’ve already received a drunk driving conviction and they’re concerned they’ll make the choice to drive drunk again, or their teen will be driving soon and they want to stop them from driving drunk, there are a lot of reasons why someone would want an ignition interlock in their car. Parents in Austin, Texas might want an ignition interlock even more after they read about what’s going on with underage drinking and driving in their city.

A 12-year-old Austin, Texas boy recently made the news after he was stopped for driving drunk. He lead police on a chase that ended with him crashing into another car and then driving straight into a pole. No one has released information on why he was driving drunk, who owned the car he was driving, and where he obtained the alcohol he was drinking.

There aren’t many cases where you’ll find a child drunk behind the wheel of a car, but drunk driving is a reoccurring theme with teenagers, especially in Austin. The “affluenza” teen Ethan Couch crashed and killed four people and was sentenced to probation and banned from alcohol, but after drinking again and fleeing the country, he’s behind bars for two years.

The Texas A&M student who recently drove drunk and snapped a topless selfie to share on Snapchat? She’s also from Austin, and although the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has a zero tolerance policy for teen drinking and driving, the crashes and arrests keep adding up.

According to 2015 data,  more than three hundred drunk driving crashes in Travis County involved someone under twenty one. Nine people died because of those crashes, and there were one hundred more crashes than in 2014. These collisions happened despite the fact that underage drunk driving results in fines of up to $500, a sixty day license revocation, and community service.

Although first time Texas offenders over the age of twenty one will receive an ignition interlock penalty, there’s no mention of that for teen drivers. Maybe it’s time, given all of the recent drunk driving cases involving teens and, incredibly, a child in Austin, to require all teens stopped for drunk driving to use an ignition interlock. That single safety measure could drastically decrease the amount of teen drunk drivers on the roads in Austin.

Hey Mom, What’s An Ignition Interlock?

mom ignition interlockJust because you’re a parent doesn’t mean you’re not human, and as a human being you’re bound to make mistakes. One of the mistakes many parents make is getting behind the wheel of a car after drinking. Even one or two drinks is enough of a mistake that the parent ends up losing his or her driver’s license and, depending on the state, is required to install an ignition interlock in his or her car.

At the time you’re making the choice to drink and drive, you probably aren’t thinking of a penalty like an ignition interlock or how you would answer a question like, “Mom, what’s an ignition interlock?” or “Why are you blowing in that?” It would be even difficult to explain the penalties associated with drunk driving, and even harder if your children were in the car with you when you’re arrested.

That’s what happened to one mother in Texas recently. She was driving down an Austin Interstate when she struck a car from behind. She kept driving north and rear-ended another car before she continued driving, and was speeding onto an on-ramp and crossing lanes to go straight into a guard-rail before she was finally stopped. When officers pulled her out of the vehicle, they looked in the back seat and found two small children.

The driver could hardly stay awake during her field sobriety tests, and when she submitted to a breathalyzer test she was found to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .258. That’s three times the legal limit, and it’s incredible that she made the choice to drive with her children in the car.

She’s been charged with felony driving while intoxicated (DWI), and that comes with jail time and a host of other penalties. Texas is also an all offender ignition interlock state, so if she ever drives with her kids in the car again, she will be explaining to her children exactly what an ignition interlock is and why she needs to drive with one.

Parents do make mistakes, but before you get behind the wheel after even one drink, you really need to ask yourself whether making the choice to drink and drive is something you want to explain to your kids or have them there as witnesses. Every parent owes it to their children to keep them safe, and no one is safe when you’re drinking and driving.

Everything Is Negotiable In Texas, Even DWI Penalties

dwi penalties If you’ve ever heard someone say that everything in life is negotiable, they’re probably right. Negotiations can even extend to DWI (driving while intoxicated) penalties, or at least they do in Texas.

If you’re a first offender in Texas and you’re convicted, your DWI penalties should include up to 180 days in jail, $2,000 in fines, a suspended driver’s license for one year, and, if you want to resume driving as soon as possible, an ignition interlock.

When the offender in question appears before the judge and he or she is convicted, that person could receive all of these penalties, but they usually don’t. According to a legal expert on KHOU.com, instead of set penalties there may be a negotiation between the offender’s lawyer and the prosecutor. That means that offender could take a plea deal, end up with probation, or walk away with as little as a fine.

That’s the problem with Texas DWI penalties. Even if you’re a second or third time DWI offender, you could very well walk away with little jail time and a short driver’s license suspension. The problem with not punishing these offenders to the full extent of the law? The offender may see the lack of punishment as a reason to go out and drink and drive again, and that could be why Texas has such a huge drunk driving problem.

Out of all the states, Texas ranks as the state with the highest percentage of deaths coming from drunk driving. Although there are probably a lot of reasons for those deaths, you have to wonder if the varied Texas DWI penalties are one of them.

Texas recently passed an all offender ignition interlock law that could be the start of significant change in the state. Offenders are able to immediately install an ignition interlock if they’d like to avoid their driver’s license suspension, and if they drive with an interlock, you can be sure they aren’t drunk out on the roads because of they negotiated their way out of their DWI penalties.

It might be time for Texas to take a look at how it’s enforcing it’s penalties and stick to the book for awhile. Laws are created for a reason, and the reason drunk driving laws are created is to pull drunk drivers off the roads.

3 Facts You Need To Know About The Texas Ignition Interlock Program

texas ignition interlock programNot that long ago, Texas drunk drivers didn’t have many options after a driving while intoxicated (DWI) conviction. If you made the decision to drink and drive, you were going to need a bus pass, have someone drive you everywhere, or spend a lot of money on a Uber and cabs to get where you needed to go.

Thankfully laws changed on September 1st, 2015, and now that the Texas ignition interlock program is in place, DWI offenders aren’t sidelined for months at a time while they wait out their driver’s license suspensions.

Here are three things an offender should know about the Texas ignition interlock program.

You can drive immediately after a DWI, as long as you have an ignition interlock

In Texas a first time DWI charge will result in you losing your driver’s license for ninety days up to one year. If you opt to install an ignition interlock device, you can skip the driver’s license suspension and immediately begin driving again.

If you don’t have plans to drive, you don’t have to get an ignition interlock

Although it’s mandatory for a Texas DWI offender with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over .15 to install an ignition interlock, the law changed to include ignition interlocks as an option for offenders BAC above .08 too. That means if you want to continue driving, you can do so with an ignition interlock. If you choose not to install, you can’t drive until your driver’s license suspension period is up.

You have thirty days to install your Texas ignition interlock

To drive after a Texas DWI you’ll have to apply for a restricted license. To be eligible for that restricted driver’s license you’ll have to have your ignition interlock installed and pay all fees associated with it within thirty days.

The Texas ignition interlock program is a good step in the right direction for all DWI offenders in the state, and with this new law on the books since last year, Texas should begin seeing a real decrease in repeat drunk driving offenses.

What Do You Have To Do To Get A 50 Year DWI Sentence?

dwi sentenceA driver’s license suspension due to a DWI sentence (driving while intoxicated) may sound ominous, but in reality it’s a simple paper document instructing you not to drive. Once the drunk driver leaves the police station or court room, no one will stand in front of that person and force them to stay away from their vehicle. If they drive on a suspended license, they may get caught, but the odds are high that they won’t.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), 50 to 75% of drunk drivers will continue to drive on a suspended license. That’s a lot of offenders who ignore their DWI sentence and drive anyway, and over time these people will rack up the offenses, crash into someone, or both.

That’s exactly what’s happened to Ronnie Paul Hobgood from Montgomery County, Texas. Instead of learning from his first offense, he continued to drink and drive straight to his sixth offense. What’s even worse is that he’s killed someone and caused numerous crashes along the way.

Hobgood has had five drunk driving arrests since 1990. He killed one person in a drunk driving crash, spent sixteen years in prison thanks to two DWI sentences, and three of his DWI arrests happened after he killed someone.

His sixth arrest occurred when a bartender, noticing he was extremely drunk, tried to stop him from driving. He hopped in his truck and took off, and while fleeing he hit another vehicle at high speed. When police arrived he had a blood alcohol concentration of .272.

That last crash is what has sealed his fate in Texas, and at a recent court appearance a judge sentenced him to fifty years in prison for his sixth DWI. He’ll be eligible for parole when he’s seventy years old.

What could have stopped this offender from repeatedly drinking and driving? The only solution to stopping repeat offenders in Texas and everywhere else in the United States is an ignition interlock. With an ignition interlock in his vehicle, Hobgood couldn’t have ignored his repeat driver’s license suspensions and drove drunk anyway.

Thankfully this offender is off the roads for a long, long time. For all other repeat offenders in Texas, it’s a good thing ignition interlocks are now mandatory. Let’s just hope that Texas follows up on all ignition interlock installations and forces compliance for all offenders. It’s the only way to clean up the roads in the Lone Star state.

Only Ignition Interlocks Could Stop This Drunk Driving Crash

don't drink and drive signDrunk driving crashes happen across the country every single day, and although each one is different because they involve different people, different circumstances, and different outcomes, they are all the same for one reason: drunk driving crashes are 100% preventable.

That’s why alcohol-related crashes are hard to comprehend. Why would anyone get behind the wheel of a car if they were so drunk they could barely stand let alone drive? Take a recent drunk driving crash in Texas as an example: after spending the day on a float in the river, Shana Elliott got behind the wheel and began driving home.

According to police she was severely intoxicated, and shortly after she began driving she crossed the center line of the road and crashed into two people driving in the opposite direction. Fabian Guerrero-Moreno died from his injuries while his wife Kristian Guerrero, who was five months pregnant at the time, lost her baby and suffered serious injuries.

Elliot has been charged with intoxication manslaughter, a second-degree felony, and intoxication assault, a third-degree felony. Those charges will effectively put her behind bars and keep her off the road for the near future, but what happens when she does resume driving again?

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Texas leads the country in drunk driving deaths, and that’s why it was so important that this state signed on for an all offender ignition interlock bill. Now a first time offender can opt to install an ignition interlock immediately after a routine drunk driving arrest, and if they install an ignition interlock, they can keep driving normally.

The Texas ignition interlock law will stop offenders like Shana Elliott, someone who has caused injury and death because of a choice she made to get behind the wheel. Once she’s released she’ll be required to drive with an ignition interlock in her vehicle, and that will prevent her from making the choice to drink and drive again.

It took a long time for Texas to pass their all offender bill, but it even if one more family can be spared having to live through a crash like this one, the steps it took to pass the law will be worth it.

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