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.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says 40% of all traffic deaths in Texas in 2018 were caused by alcohol-impaired driving. Only Montana had a higher percentage of alcohol-related traffic fatalities at 43%.
In Texas, a person with a blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 g/dL is legally intoxicated and can be charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI). A Texas driver can be convicted of driving while impaired even if his or her alcohol level is lower than .08 if the person does not have normal use of his or her mental or physical faculties as a result of alcohol or drugs. If you are under age 21, it is illegal in Texas to have any detectable amount of alcohol in your system while operating a motor vehicle.
If a person who caused a car accident was found to be legally intoxicated – guilty of DWI – this is considered “negligence per se.” In other words, no other evidence is necessary to show that the drunk driver bears responsibility for the accident and injuries that ensued.
Because driving drunk shows willful disregard for public safety and the law, the defendant in a drunk driving accident lawsuit is more likely to be assessed punitive damage by a jury. This is an extra payment to the injured exacted as punishment for gross negligence or intentional acts that cause harm and as a warning to others who would act with similar disregard for the well-being of others.
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.