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Drinking and Driving in Texas: An Overview

Drinking and Driving, Dwi

There is another call to 911 about a drunk driver. It is dark outside, but it is not night; it is 5:40 in the morning. When stopped, the driver is on his way to work. This is not an isolated incident. More and more drunks are driving early in the morning and during the day when traffic is high, not late at night when most people are already at home. Drunk driving continues to be deadly killer in all states.

Today, driving while intoxicated is the highest numbered crime in the world, not just in the United States, even though thousands of laws have been enacted to try and combat this social ill that kills thousands of people yearly. Countries like Norway have had laws concerning legal limits of consumption as early as 1927. Breathe tests were available as early as World War II in the United States, but only became universally used during the 1950-1960’s in most states.

Most countries rely on two types of tests for blood alcohol. The first is the field sobriety test where the intoxicant is asked to perform several tests of their ability to perform simple tasks, like walking a straight line. The second is the breath analyzer, where the person is required to breather into a machine that can calibrate the alcohol level. Beyond that is the chemical test to see how much alcohol is in the blood stream.

Countries around the world have tried limits as strict as .3 but people continue to drive drunk. Great Britain takes away their driving permit on the first incident, but as in the US the people simply drive without their license. Countries like Mexico, Brazil, and Italy have no illegal blood alcohol levels in their laws.

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Even with all these laws and punishments drunks continue to drive. They are caught multiple times driving without their driving license, since it has been revoked by the state. Statistics show that very little time is actually spent in jail. Why is this? John Q. Public continues to think I know when I am drunk and when I am not. And continue to assume that they have a God given right to drive in any condition. Driving is a privilege of the state not a right.

In Texas the legal limit is .08 BAC, blood alcohol concentration. If the driver is driving erratically they can be cited no matter what their BAC is. For underage 17 years old, Texas has no drinking and driving at all. It is a zero tolerance state for youngsters. If you are stopped and the officer asks you to take a breathe or blood test for your BAC you will be taken to the station and these tests will be done. If you refuse to have these test done you can have an automatic 180 day suspension of your driving license. Your punishment for the DWI citation varies according to how many times you have been cited for it.

These go from a first offense $2000 fine and 72 to 180 days jail time and your driving license suspended from ninety days to one year to the third strike containing up to $10,000, two to ten years in the penitentiary and your license suspended up to 2 years. If a person has a DWI on his record he is also charged a surcharge to keep his driving privilege these are $1000 first offense, $1500 second offense, and $2000 if the person has a BAC of .16.

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The minor when cited for underage drinking and driving will receive a thirty day license suspension and up to a $500.00 fine. It also requires eight to twelve hours of service to the community and they have to attend alcohol-awareness classes. Any amount of beer, wine, or liquor will cause this citation.

Texas also has taken a further step in trying to curb the drinking and driving. On September 1, 2001, Texas made it against the law to drive with an open container of any type of alcohol in the passenger area of the car and on a public roadway. There are exemptions for buses, limousines, and taxis. This law is in effect whether the person is driving the vehicle, stopped or parked. And all passengers can be cited at the time if it is considered that they are in possession of said containers. So if you leave a party with a half bottle of wine to carry home put it in the glove compartment or the trunk or in the very back of your SUV or you can be cited.

Texas takes a dim view of the DWI offense with a child under fifteen years of age in the vehicle also. These fines are considered state jail felony costing the driver money and jail time, plus the suspension of the driving privilege. In some cases this could also cause the child protective services to investigate the child for abuse.