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Facts You Should Know About DUI Accidents in McAllen, TX

Drunk driving accidents continue to be a deadly threat on American roads, and Texas has the dubious distinction of consistently ranking among the states with the highest number of drunk driving fatalities year after year. This alarming trend underscores a persistent issue that has plagued the state for decades, despite numerous public awareness campaigns and stringent enforcement measures aimed at curbing the menace of driving under the influence. The statistics are stark and sobering, painting a grim picture of the consequences of alcohol-impaired driving on the safety and well-being of road users.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 40% of all traffic deaths in Texas in 2018 were caused by alcohol-impaired driving. This figure places Texas among the top states in the nation for alcohol-related traffic fatalities, second only to Montana, which had a slightly higher percentage at 43%. These numbers not only highlight the prevalence of drunk driving in Texas but also indicate the severe impact it has on road safety. The legal framework in Texas defines a person with a blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 g/dL as legally intoxicated, making them liable to be charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI). This legal threshold is consistent with federal guidelines and serves as a critical benchmark for law enforcement officers in identifying and prosecuting offenders.

However, the legal ramifications of drunk driving in Texas extend beyond the .08 BAC threshold. A driver can also be convicted of driving while impaired if they do not have normal use of their mental or physical faculties due to alcohol or drugs, even if their BAC is below .08. This broader legal definition allows for the prosecution of individuals who may not meet the standard BAC criteria but are nonetheless impaired and pose a danger to public safety. Furthermore, for drivers under the age of 21, Texas enforces a zero-tolerance policy, making it illegal to operate a motor vehicle with any detectable amount of alcohol in their system. This stringent approach reflects the state’s commitment to preventing underage drinking and driving, acknowledging the increased risk and potential consequences of youthful indiscretion behind the wheel.

When an individual is found to be legally intoxicated and at fault in a car accident, they are deemed guilty of DWI, which is considered “negligence per se.” This legal principle simplifies the process of establishing liability in drunk driving cases by eliminating the need for further evidence to prove the drunk driver’s responsibility for the accident and the resulting injuries. The presumption of negligence inherent in the act of driving while intoxicated underscores the serious view that the legal system takes of such behavior, recognizing its potential to cause harm and disrupt lives.

The repercussions for offenders in drunk driving cases in Texas are severe and multifaceted. Beyond the criminal penalties, which can include fines, jail time, and the suspension of driving privileges, individuals convicted of DWI may also face civil liabilities. Notably, if a drunk driver causes an accident, they are more likely to be assessed punitive damages in a lawsuit. Punitive damages are additional compensations awarded to the injured party, intended to punish the offender for their gross negligence or intentional acts that resulted in harm. This financial penalty serves as both a punishment for the wrongdoer and a deterrent to others, signaling the societal condemnation of reckless disregard for public safety and the rule of law.

The impact of drunk driving accidents extends far beyond the immediate victims and their families, reverberating through communities and imposing a significant burden on public resources. The emotional, physical, and financial toll of these incidents underscores the need for continued vigilance and action to combat the scourge of drunk driving. Education and awareness programs play a crucial role in informing the public about the dangers of driving under the influence and promoting responsible behavior. Law enforcement efforts, including sobriety checkpoints and targeted patrols, are vital in deterring potential offenders and apprehending those who choose to disregard the law.

Technological advancements, such as ignition interlock devices (IIDs), which prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver’s BAC exceeds a preset limit, offer an additional layer of prevention. These devices have been shown to reduce recidivism among convicted drunk drivers, contributing to the broader effort to enhance road safety. Moreover, legislative initiatives aimed at strengthening DWI laws and increasing penalties for offenders are critical components of a comprehensive strategy to reduce drunk driving incidents.

In conclusion, drunk driving remains a significant public safety issue in Texas, with far-reaching consequences for individuals and society at large. The legal and punitive measures in place reflect the seriousness with which the state approaches the problem, seeking to deter potential offenders and hold those responsible accountable for their actions. However, combating the challenge of drunk driving requires a concerted effort that involves law enforcement, the legal system, public health initiatives, and community engagement. By working together to promote awareness, enforce the law, and support prevention strategies, it is possible to reduce the incidence of drunk driving accidents and save lives. The continued high rates of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in Texas serve as a stark reminder of the work that remains to be done, urging all stakeholders to renew their commitment to making the state’s roads safer for everyone.

Texas’ Dram Shop Law Regarding Commercial Establishments and DWIs

Texas also has a Dram Shop Act that allows bars and restaurants in Texas to be held liable for drunk driving accidents in certain situations. An employee at a Texas bar or other place that serves alcohol may be liable in a drunk driving accident if the server:

  • Sold alcohol to an individual who was obviously intoxicated
  • Sold alcohol to a minor who caused a drunk driving accident.

Owners of commercial establishments can protect themselves by requiring employees to attend training before selling alcohol and by encouraging employees not to ignore the Dram Shop Act.

In a claim made under the Texas Dram Shop Act, the plaintiff will typically rely on witnesses and security footage to establish that the person being served alcohol was “obviously intoxicated.” Additional evidence, such as recent debit card deductions for alcohol purchases, are strong evidence of intoxication, as well.

In a personal injury claim, such evidence may allow individuals injured by a drunk driver to seek compensation through the negligent bar or restaurant owner’s business liability insurance. This is beneficial when the actual drunk driver in the case is found to be uninsured, for example.

Texas DWI Statistics and Recent Fatalities

Harris County (Houston) had the most DWI crashes of any Texas County in 2018, with 3,186, according to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). These crashes resulted in 121 deaths. Hidalgo County had 717 DWI accidents, with 22 people killed.

There were 24,211 DWI-related crashes in all of Texas in 2018, according to TxDOT. Of them, 850 were fatal accidents resulting in 940 deaths.

David Garcia Jr., 22, was arrested for DWI after an accident on North 10th Street in McAllen in August 2019. News reports say Alma Rodriguez and 2-year-old Patricia Vargas were killed when Garcia’s pickup truck struck the SUV they were riding in. Seven others in the SUV were injured.

In December, Orlando Rodriguez admitted to drinking beer and liquor, as well as using cocaine and marijuana, before he drove through a stop sign and crossed the median on Highway 281, crashing head-on into Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office dispatcher Sandra Coronado’s vehicle and killing her. A news report says Rodriguez had a previous DWI conviction and that the night before the fatal collision, friends told Rodriguez he would be arrested if he left home to party in downtown McAllen. He responded that he could control himself.

Community Response to Drunk Driving

Since 1982, drunk driving fatalities on our nation’s roadways have decreased 50%, while total traffic fatalities have declined nearly 17%, according to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility. Among persons under 21, drunk driving fatalities have decreased 81%.

From 2008 to 2017, the number of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities per 100,000 population in Texas increased by 12.1%, according to the Foundation. Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities per 100,000 population among drivers under age 21 fell by 7.5%.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says these strategies to combat drunk driving have been effective where adopted in the U.S.:

  • Stricter laws. Drunk driving laws have made it illegal nationwide to drive with a BAC at or above 0.08%. For people under 21, “zero tolerance” laws make it illegal to drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in their system.
  • Sobriety checkpoints. Checkpoints allow police to briefly stop vehicles at specific, highly visible locations under standardized procedures to see whether drivers are impaired.
  • License suspension and revocation. State laws allow police to take away the license of a driver who tests at or above the legal BAC limit or who refuses testing when arrested. States decide how long to suspend the license; a minimum of 90 days is effective.
  • Ignition interlocks. Interlock devices prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has a BAC above a certain level, usually 0.02%. People convicted of drunk driving may be required to have them installed, and they are highly effective at preventing repeat DWI offenses, the CDC says.
  • Public awareness. Mass media campaigns have been used to spread the message about the physical dangers and legal consequences of drunk driving. They can persuade people not to drink and drive.
  • Public school programs. School-based instructional programs can teach teens not to ride with drunk drivers. More evidence is needed to see whether these programs can also reduce drunk driving and related crashes, the CDC says.

Contact a DUI Accident Lawyer in McAllen, TX

Unfortunately, innocent drivers, passengers, pedestrians and others continue to be injured and killed by drunk drivers in McAllen and across Texas. If we cannot stop drunk driving accidents, we at Herrman & Herrman can help the accident victims to hold drunk drivers accountable.

Our drunk driving accident attorneys in McAllen are committed to helping individuals and families who have been harmed by another driver’s carelessness or disregard for safety. At-fault drivers and their insurance companies should pay for the damages they cause.

We work aggressively to obtain full compensation for those who have been injured through the fault of others. Contact us today for a free initial legal consultation about your rights and how we can help you.