According to some websites, Texas leads the nation in friendliness and higher education, in addition to the number of rodeos and oil fields. But the Longhorn State also leads the way in some less than impressive categories. Take drunk driving.
According to a recent report by Forbes, Texas ranks as the third most dangerous state for drunk driving in the entire country. Many drunk driving accidents in Texas are fatal, which probably explains why the state continues to pass laws cracking down on drunk driving. Our DWI defense lawyer dives into the numbers.
What Are the 5 Worst States?
Forbes compared states using several metrics:
- Montana. Big Sky Country led the way thanks to the extremely high percentage of drunk drivers involved in fatal crashes: 8.57 per 100,000 licensed drivers. The state also had the highest rate of motorists under 21 getting involved in fatal crashes. Remember, these are drivers who aren’t even legally allowed to purchase alcohol.
- South Dakota. The Mount Rushmore State fell in right behind Montana, with the highest rate of drunk driving arrests, 879.12 per 100,000 licensed drivers, which is awfully close to around 1%. South Dakota also had a high rate of underage drivers being involved in fatal accidents.
- Texas. The Longhorn State slid into the #3 spot. We stood out because of the remarkably high percentage of traffic accident deaths caused by drunk drivers: 42.4%. In other words, almost 1 in 2 fatal accidents involved a drunk driver. Texas was also high with the share of drunk drivers involved in fatal accidents.
- Wyoming. Unfortunately, a high rate of drunk driving arrests (629.12 per 100,000 licensed drivers) helped land Wyoming at #4 of the most dangerous states for drunk driving.
- North Dakota. Rounding out the top 5 was the Rough Rider State, which had the second-highest rate of drunk driving arrests in the country (832.5 per 100,000 drivers), along with a high rate of drunk drivers involved in fatal collisions.
The other states also have extremely low populations, which probably skews their statistics somewhat. For Texas to be so high on the list is not impressive at all.
How Should Texas Respond?
Every year, thousands of people are killed or injured in drunk driving collisions. The state must act; but how?
One idea floating around is to reduce the maximum blood alcohol concentration, or BAC. Currently, all states but Utah have 0.08% as their legal limit, except Utah, which lowered their limit to 0.05%. Some people have recommended that Texas should follow Utah’s lead. One study showed that lowering the limit could potentially cut the number of fatalities by 10%.
The state has also tried to deter drunk driving by making those convicted of intoxicated manslaughter liable for child support payments if the victim left behind minor children. That step can provide badly needed compensation to families who have lost a loved one. But we will have to wait and see if the law meaningfully lowers drunk driving rates in the state.
Texas has also increased enforcement, especially around holidays when many people celebrate by having a drink or two. Harris County, for example, enforced a no-refusal policy for New Year’s Eve weekend, which resulted in more than 200 arrests during a 4-day period. We might see more no-refusal periods throughout the year.
Perhaps the only way to really cut into drunk driving is through the use of technology, such as passive monitoring systems in vehicles that measure a driver’s behavior or eye movement for signs of impairment. The vehicle might refuse to start if sensors pick up alcohol or reduce the car’s speed. The state already requires that most people install an ignition interlock device on their vehicles as a prerequisite to getting their license back. But passive monitoring systems would be built into every car sold on the market, casting a much wider net.
Did You Make a Mistake? Call Tad Nelson
Anyone can enjoy one too many drinks and then get behind the wheel of a car when they are in no condition to drive. One mistake should not send you to prison for years. At Tad Nelson & Associates, we receive calls from ordinary people who made a simple mistake and are facing serious criminal penalties. They are embarrassed, but also afraid of the future. Please call our firm. We have defended thousands of people from DWI charges and are available to discuss in greater detail how we defend these cases. Contact us to schedule a no-risk, no-obligation consultation.