It's no secret that Texas has secured the spot of being the most dangerous state in the country for drunk driving accidents. In fact, according to MADD, in 2013 alone there were 1337 deaths caused by drunk drivers in the state of Texas. That astronomical number does not include the number of victims that were injured as a result of a drunk driving crash.
Some other alarming statistics regarding Texas and drunk drivers:
� The rover 25,000 alcohol-related crashes last year
� almost 100,000 DWI arrests
� over 71,000 convictions for drunken-driving
� over 15,000 people reported injured from a drunk driving accident
� almost 40% of all traffic deaths in the state of Texas were alcohol-related.
Texas has a long and storied history and a big part of the history is the independence of the state and the "wildcatter attitude". It was not that many years ago that some prominent politicians in the state of Texas fought tooth and nail to keep it legal for open containers to be allowed in moving vehicles. Fortunately, saner people prevailed and open containers were eventually outlawed.
It is against this background that the approach taken in the state of Texas to battle drunk driving has been measured. Texas has taken approach focusing on the punishment for the offender and not so much the cure. However, this approach has failed to produce results to lower the number of drunk driving offenses, injuries and deaths.
A NEW APPROACH
It is crystal clear that a new approach is necessary to reduce the number of unnecessary deaths in alcohol-related crashes in the state of Texas. Punishing the offender through lengthy sentences is not getting the job done, but it is taking a number of people off the streets for decades.
DRAM SHOP REFORM
The first thing that Texas needs to do is reform its dram shop laws to make it easier to hold bars and clubs accountable for putting profits ahead of safety and over serving patrons who were obviously intoxicated. While Texas has a dram shop law now, it is heavily slanted toward the alcohol provider and against the victims.
By making each alcohol provider carry liability insurance and reforming the dram shop statute, the number of drunk driving crashes can be reduced significantly within our state. Currently, the dram shop statute provides a "safe harbor" for providers who send their employees to classes regarding alcohol. This should be mandatory for all entities that serve alcohol and not a method of escaping responsibility for over serving a patron who is obviously intoxicated.
Additionally, by requiring liability insurance for all alcohol providers, underwriting will inevitably assist the process of making sure that the insureds are safe and have policies designed to protect the public and not necessarily maximize profits.
Sobriety checkpoints have been used across the world to great success in reducing the number of drunk drivers on the road. In fact, Europe Australia and elsewhere have achieved great results in making their communities safer through sobriety checkpoints. Texas opposes such approach despite the overwhelming evidence of its effectiveness.
In places where sobriety checkpoints have been utilized, the number of arrests goes down after the first year and behavior changes for those who choose to indulge.
Some of the most effective tools for battling drinking drivers within the state of Texas or the advertising campaigns aimed at raising awareness of the problem and consequences. Who can forget the "friends don't let friends drive drunk" or "DWI you can afford it" campaigns? Additional monies directed toward community awareness and with an eye toward new drivers can be an effective tool in reducing the number of unnecessary accidents and deaths in our state.
Much can be done to improve the terrible track record that the state of Texas has with respect to combating drunk driving. Year after year we continue to carry the mantle of the state with the most drunk driving deaths in the country. Imposing significant penalties after the fact on the drunk driver has proven ineffective and a new approach is required.