Driving while intoxicated presents a major danger both to the intoxicated individual and all those around them. Unfortunately, drunk driving is a particularly big problem in Houston, Texas. The city and state both have high rates of DWIs and numerous cases of injuries and deaths as a result of intoxicated drivers on the road. It’s important to understand the dangers of drunk driving so you can take action to help mitigate this problem.
Drunk Driving Injuries and Deaths
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, a DUI-alcohol-related accident kills one person every nine hours and six minutes in the state of Texas. Across the state, 963 people were killed and 2,114 were seriously injured in 2020 as the result of drunk driving. Texas itself is the fourth-worst state in the country for this offense.
Houston is regularly recognized as one of the worst cities in the state for this offense. In Harris County alone, 32.9% of driving deaths involved alcohol. This is higher than the state average of 25.7%. In December 2021, the county saw 1,057 drunk driving arrests. Lt. Richard Standifier of the Texas Department of Public Safety told KPRC2 News, “We have been, and continue to be the worst county in the nation when it comes to DUI accidents.”
I-45 is particularly dangerous. I-45 accidents, in general, average 56.5 fatal accidents every 100 miles. The Houston stretch of the highway is the most dangerous, having seen 73 deaths in 2019 alone. Speeding, road range, and poor infrastructure all contribute to the danger on this highway. Adding intoxication to the mix makes for an especially deadly combination. This highway has the highest rate of drunk driving fatalities in the country.
Houston ranks ninth in the state among cities with the highest number of drunk driving deaths. Annually, there are about 4.36 drunk driving deaths per 100k people in this city.
Houston Alcohol Use
Part of the reason that Houston sees so much drunk driving is because alcohol use, in general, is high here. One in five adults in Houston binge drinks about four times a month. This is higher than the national average of one in six adults. These drinkers consume an average of seven drinks per binge. A binge drinker is 14 times more likely to report alcohol-impaired driving than someone who doesn’t binge drink.
Binge drinking presents many threats. While drunk driving is one especially common problem associated with binge drinking, drinking to excess can also result in alcohol poisoning, falls, burns, violence, unintended pregnancy and poor outcomes of pregnancy, and an increased risk of chronic diseases like heart and liver disease. Heavy drinkers also have a higher risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon, and breast.
What Is the Definition of Legal Intoxication?
The legal definition of intoxication is the state of being drunk as the result of alcohol or narcotics use. In the United States, the intoxication level varies from 0.08% and 0.10%. In the state of Texas, you’re legally intoxicated when your blood alcohol level is 0.08% or higher. However, you’re in violation of the law any time alcohol impacts your driving ability. You are also considered legally intoxicated if you’ve consumed a combination of alcohol and narcotics that produce the same effect as 0.08% blood alcohol level even if the reading falls below this.
What Are the Penalties for DWIs?
In Texas, the first DWI offense results in three mandatory days in jail with potential jail time of up to 180 days. Drivers can also face a fine of up to $2,000 and loss of their driver’s license for up to a year. On the second DWI offense, drivers spend anywhere from one month to a year in jail. Second-time offenders also face up to $4,000 in fines and loss of their license for up to two years.
Third-time offenders with a DWI spend two to 10 years in prison, face a fine of up to $10,000, and may lose their driver’s license for up to two years. The above-mentioned fines do not include the state fines assessed upon sentencing which come in the amount of $3,000, $4,500, or $6,000.
If a child under the age of 15 is present in the car during the DWI offense, the driver will also face charges of child endangerment. This charge comes with up to two years in jail and an additional fine of up to $10,000. The offender will also lose their driver’s license for an additional 180 days.
Staying Safe on Houston Roads
In the fall of 2021, The TxDOT launched a Drive Sober. No Regrets. campaign to coincide with football season. The campaign included outreach efforts at colleges throughout the state. This is also a component of the #EndTheSteakTX social campaign which is working to reduce the number of drunk driving deaths and injuries in the state.
If you see a driver on the road who appears to be drunk, you can report them by calling 1-800-525-5555. This number is also included on Texas driver’s licenses. If you witness or are involved in an accident, you should call 911.
When drinking, it’s important to stay out of the driver’s seat until sober. Rideshare services are a great alternative to taking your own car when you’re planning to drink. In Houston, the availability of rideshare services decreased convictions for impaired driving by 24% over a six-year period. Establishing a designated driver or calling a friend or family member for a ride is also a smart alternative if you’re not sure that you’re sober enough to drive.
If you’re involved in an accident with a drunk driver, you can take legal action to get compensation for your medical expenses, time off of work, pain and suffering, and any damage to your property. You should seek professional help from an attorney as soon as possible after the accident.If you’ve been in an auto accident with a drunk driver, our team can help. Just contact us and we can help you find the best path forward.