Yesterday I attended my first Mothers Against Driving Advisory Board meeting in Dallas. As a long-time supporter of MADD, I am glad to be able to work closer with this worthwhile organization so we can prevent drunk driving in Dallas-Fort Worth.
This is crucial. DWIs are far too common. There were over 4,000 crashes caused by drunk drivers in Dallas and Tarrant Counties last year. Tragically they took the lives of 139 people and injured over 3,000 people. This has got to stop.
Just since Saturday night, the news media reported that
- An intoxicated Assistant DA was fired after abusing her Uber driver;
- A drunk driving the wrong way on Central Expressway killed another driver; but also
- Dallas City Council is debating whether to allow some bars to stay open until 6:00 a.m.
This board provides direction and support to MADD, the only group trying to stop these senseless deaths and injuries.
Why MADD matters
I only represent people who have been injured by car and truck collisions. I’ve been practicing personal injury law since 1980, coincidentally the year MADD was founded. I went to SMU Law School so I’ve lived in our area for over 40 years and proudly call DFW home.
The DWI situation was worse in 1980, if you can believe it. Drunk driving was responsible for half of all traffic deaths. By comparison, only one-third of fatal crashes are caused by drunk driving today.
One main reason is because MADD has relentlessly lobbied for stricter laws and enforcement and greater awareness and education.
Most recently, MADD pushed for an all-offender ignition interlock device law in Texas. Finally the law passed in 2015 and was strengthened this year. Drunk driving deaths have dropped by over eight percent. We have a long way to go. But each new law and enforcement action saves lives.
At the board meeting yesterday, a presentation was made about the highly effective ignition interlock device system sold by a local company called Smart Start. The information was so informative that I’ll talk about it in another post.
Most people know that drunk driving is horrifically dangerous. But many drivers do it anyway. That’s where stronger law enforcement and stricter financial penalties can be important deterrents.
How DWI accident victims can push for harsher penalties
After a drunk driving accident, you may be involved in two separate legal proceedings, criminal and civil.
First, prosecutors will bring DWI charges against the drunk driver. The driver may also face additional charges, including intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter if he causes a serious or fatal crash. The prosecutor and defendant may call you as a witness at a DWI trial. You may also be asked to give a statement at sentencing called a victim’s impact statement.
This might seem like a lot to ask at a difficult time. You may be in severe physical pain, undergoing extensive treatment or mourning the death of your loved one. But your role is important. Prosecutors are likely to pursue a conviction more aggressively and a judge and jury to sentence the driver more harshly if they understand the impact the crash has had on you.
Holding the drunk driver liable for your damages
But you still have medical bills, lost wages and other expenses. A disability may prevent you from working at your full capacity again. You may need surgery and have no way to pay for it.
To recover these damages, you must pursue a civil claim. Because drunk driving is considered gross negligence, you may also be entitled to punitive damages.
These damages can help you recover from your injuries. But, they also serve another purpose. A long jail sentence is a compelling deterrent, as is a public civil trial, large court verdict or settlement, increase in insurance premiums, and possible loss of liability insurance coverage by the drunk driver.
I unfortunately have to see first hand the victims of intoxicated and stoned driving on a regular basis and these crashes anger me.
I hope we can achieve MADD’s goal of No More Victims.