Driving under the influence of alcohol is one of the most common causes of accidents and fatalities in the United States. Unfortunately, Texas is no exception.
In fact, Zutobi (the world’s leading driver education company) conducted a study of the 10 worst states for driving and found that Texas alone had the fifth highest number of drunk drivers in the nation with a DUI score of 69.8. This score is higher than New York and Utah’s scores combined.
The Texas Department of Transportation reported that one person dies every eight hours and 31 minutes in a DUI and alcohol-related traffic crash. In 2021, 1,029 people died in Texas and 2,522 were seriously injured because someone decided to get behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol.
During spring break last year, 872 DUI and alcohol-related traffic crashes were recorded in Texas.
DUI arrests and deaths in Texas
Technically, a person is characterized as a drunk driver when his/her blood alcohol level exceeds 0.08%. DUI (Driving Under the Influence) is a serious offense and its potential penalties may include hefty fines and jail time.
The numbers for Texas were quite severe, with 360 DUI arrests and an alarming 7.5 DUI fatalities per 100,000 drivers. The study also said that drunk driving is more common among drivers under the age of 34 and decreases with age. This suggests that “older drivers are better at identifying their limitations and recognizing the dangers of driving under the influence.”
Drunk driving penalties in Texas
Drunk driving is a serious threat to traffic safety and public health in Texas. Due to the increasing number of drunk driving crashes, Texas was declared the state with the highest number of drunk driving fatalities in the U.S. in 2020.
Causing an accident that results in injury to another person
One of the charges you may face is intoxication, under Texas Penal Code § 49.07. This charge is imposed when the accident results in serious bodily injury to someone other than yourself.
Texas defines serious bodily injury as one that:
- Causes substantial risk of death,
- Results in permanent disfigurement, or
- Results in the long-term loss or impairment of a limb or organ.
Generally, the intoxication charge is a third-degree felony, punishable by 2-10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. However, if the accident caused a traumatic brain injury or if the victim was an on-duty firefighter or emergency medical personnel, it’s a second-degree felony, which carries a prison term of 2-20 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
More severe penalties may be imposed if the victim was a law enforcement officer or judge on duty. In that case, the offense is a first-degree felony, punishable by 5-99 years imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of $10,000.
Causing an accident that results in the death of another person
If you were drunk and caused an accident in which someone died, you can be prosecuted under Texas Penal Code § 49.08.
Known as intoxication manslaughter, this offense is a second-degree felony. A conviction can result in 2-20 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. The crime may be elevated to a first-degree felony if the victim was an on-duty firefighter or emergency medical personnel.
In addition, if someone is convicted of intoxication manslaughter, a standard second offense is characterized as a third-degree DUI felony. Generally, second offenses are Class A misdemeanors.
Causing an accident that results in property damage
The Texas Penal Code doesn’t have a statute regarding DUIs that result solely in property damage. However, if you were driving while intoxicated and damaged another person’s car, home, or other property, you could face a DUI charge, as well as a reckless damage charge under Texas Penal Code § 28.04.
Reckless damage charges arise when you do something that involves substantial risks. Even though you’re aware of them, you engage in the behavior nonetheless. The offense is a Class C misdemeanor, which carries a fine of up to $500. You would face that penalty in addition to those for the DUI offense.
Causing an accident and leaving the scene (hit-and-run)
In Texas, if you’re involved in an accident, you must stop at or near the scene, exchange information with others involved and render aid to any injured parties. Failure to do so is known as hit-and-run.
Ways to limit alcohol-impaired driving
Here are some simple and easy ways to prevent DUI-related accidents from occurring:
- Don’t let your friends drive after having an alcoholic beverage.
- Be aware of the glass or can volume to make sure you’re not drinking too much alcohol.
- Talk to teens and young adults about the dangers of drinking and driving.
- If you suspect someone has been drinking and driving in Texas, call the police and share their location. Note the model of car and its license plate number.
- Always report underage drinking, even if it’s not related to traffic accidents.
- Make sure all bars and establishments comply with legal drinking age rules. If you witness a violation, report it.
What to do in case of an accident caused by a drunk driver?
If you’re involved in a traffic accident and suspect that the other driver was driving while intoxicated, call the police at 911 and request that the responding officer perform a breathalyzer test. In Texas, a person is considered a drunk driver when his/her blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reaches 0.08%.
It’s important to get this information on the spot and include it in the police report, as it may be difficult to prove later that alcohol was a factor in the accident.
If an emergency medical team arrives at the scene of the accident, allow them to treat you, even if you don’t believe you have serious injuries. You can get more information on what to do after a car accident here.
Contact an accident lawyer
Drunk driving accidents can cause serious injuries and lead to high medical bills, lost wages, emotional trauma and uncertainty about the future. Our attorneys at the Law Offices of George Salinas can help you claim financial compensation. Contact our trusted accident attorneys immediately for more information.
At the Law Offices of George Salinas, we’ll help you no matter your immigration status. Schedule your free and confidential consultation. Call us now! We know how to deal with insurance companies and are ready to take your case to trial.
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