"No Refusal weekends" will now be all year longHere's a fact you rarely hear: Texas is #1 in the U.S. for deaths caused by intoxicated drivers. Any one loss of life is tragic. Our figure of 886 is abysmal. So yesterday's announcement by the Tarrant County District Attorney's office that every weekend will now become a "No Refusal" weekend is certainly good news. Hopefully, the chances of being the victim of a Tarrant County DWI accident will be curtailed starting this Friday night. In the past, only a few weekends each year were designated as No Refusal Weekends, including New Year's Eve, Super Bowl, Labor Day, and several others when it was known there would be more DWIs than usual. But Dallas, San Antonio, and other cities and counties have cracked down on DWIs on every weekend for years. Currently in Tarrant County, if someone is stopped due to a police officer's suspicion that they are driving while intoxicated, they can refuse to undergo a breathalyzer or field sobriety test and be arrested. Texas is an "implied consent" state, meaning that a driver is presumed to have given permission to being tested by being issued a driver's license.A skilled lawyer can have the charges reduced or dismissed. Criminal defense lawyers in Tarrant County stay busy handling over 6,000 DWI charges filed last year. During No Refusal weekends, the officer immediately takes the suspected drunk driver to a police station. A magistrate is waiting to sign a search warrant and a nurse immediately draws blood and/or obtains a breath sample. This speeds up the process, which is critical since the longer it takes, the lower the driver's blood alcohol content becomes. Once the lab confirms that the .08% grams of alcohol per deciliter of blood threshold has been achieved, prosecutors obtain a 90% guilty verdict or plea bargain rate. North Texas is the epicenter of Texas drunk driving - which is saying a lot. If you add up Tarrant (1,534 DWI crashes), Dallas (2,191), Denton (545) and Collin (569) Counties, there were close to 5,000 DWI accidents last year just in these four counties. This is far higher than any other area, including Houston and its surrounding counties. Check out this map: counties with most DWI crashes We have to stop the madness.
How alcohol causes vehicle crashesAlcohol (and drugs) reduces the ability of the brain to function properly. It impairs vision, judgment, hand-eye and muscle coordination, and balance. Alcoholic beverages reduce the ability to perceive moving vehicles and judge their distances and speeds, basic requirements of driving safely. There is a direct correlation between the amount of alcohol and the effects on the central nervous system. It is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream through the walls of the intestine. Criminal and civil courts use blood alcohol concentration levels for different purposes. While criminal courts exact punishment in jail sentences, fines, and loss of rights, civil courts enable the victim and their family to receive monetary compensation for their damages.
Why you should be so worried about this problemThe country is facing multiple crises and perhaps, you might think that DWIs are not a big deal or can be overlooked because they won't affect you. But consider these startling facts:
- An American dies every 20 minutes from an alcohol-fueled collision;
- 29 of us lose their lives each day at the hands of a drunk driver;
- About 30 million Americans admit each year to driving while being intoxicated;
- Alcohol-impaired drivers take the wheel over 300,000 times each day, but only 2,800 are estimated (less than 1%);
- The typical drunk driver has already been intoxicated 80 times before they are finally (if ever) arrested;
- One in three Americans will be involved in a DWI accident in their lifetime;
- 54% of children who lose their lives in a alcohol-caused crash were driven by an intoxicated driver, usually their parents; and
- Our country is the third worst in the world for driving while intoxicated.
Finally, Texas has more people who die in all kinds of traffic wrecks (3,615) than California, which has about 10 million more people. How is that possible
Other ways to cut the Tarrant County DWI accident rate
- Increase the number of police on the roads on weekends and nights;
- Establish sobriety checkpoints at known bar areas like West 7th Street in Fort Worth or Uptown in Dallas;
- Arrest and convict more drunk drivers and post these results on social media and in the press;
- Expedite civil lawsuits against these drivers and publicize high verdicts to send a message that drunk driving will not be tolerated;
- Require engine interlocks that cannot be easily evaded by convicted drunk drivers;
- Make car manufacturers install software that detects drunk and stoned driving;
- Lower the blood alcohol limit to .05% (it is 0% in many countries); and
- Increase public funding for DWI prevention programs like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which Mr. Berenson proudly supports.