According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report, there were 1,336 drunk driving deaths throughout Texas in 2013. This number represents 39.5% of all traffic-related deaths throughout the state in 2013 and is a 3.6% increase from the prior year. Furthermore, there were 99,195 DUI arrests, which resulted in 71,030 DUI convictions in 2013.
DUI-related deaths and accidents are a significant problem throughout the country, and in particular, Texas. One tool that Texas and other states have used to reduce the number of accidents is to require the installation of ignition interlock devices on vehicles owned by DUI offenders.
Ignition Interlock Devices
An ignition interlock device is a small device that is wired into the ignition system of a vehicle and requires a driver to blow into the device to start the car. If the driver has alcohol in his system above a certain level then the vehicle will not start. The blood alcohol concentration threshold is usually set between 0.02 to 0.04 grams per deciliter (g/dL). Under Texas law (as well as every state throughout the United States), the minimum illegal blood alcohol concentration is .08.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “researchers found that after these devices were installed, re-arrest rates for alcohol-impaired driving decreased by a median of 67 percent relative to drivers with suspended licenses.” Currently, 24 states have laws on their books that require the use of ignition interlock devices for DUI offenders. Within each state, however, the laws vary when an ignition interlock device is to be used. For example, some states require the use of ignition interlock devices for DUI offenders with a BAC of .08 or greater. Other states, including Texas, require devices only when an offender has a BAC of .15 or greater. Further, some states do not even have a mandatory program, but employ a discretionary program for any DUI offender.
Under Texas law, magistrate judges are required to order “defendants charged with a subsequent DWI to install an IID unless the magistrate finds that the installation of an IID would not be in the best interest of justice.” The law applies “to persons convicted of a second and subsequent offense relating to a DWI committed within 5 years.” Furthermore, an ignition interlock device must be installed for an offender regarding offenses involving a BAC of .15 or greater. The offender must install ignition interlock devices on all of the motor vehicles he or she owns for 1 year following a period of license suspension.
Possible Changes to DWI Ignition Interlock Laws in Texas
Mothers Against Drunk Driving has been leading campaigns throughout the country to encourage states to pass tougher laws regulating the use of ignition interlock devices. MADD’s goal is “to get all states to require first-time DWI offenders to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles.”
MADD does not believe Texas’s current laws governing the use of ignition interlock devices do enough to prevent DUI-related accidents and deaths. Jason Derscheid, executive director of MADD’s North Texas affiliate, believes there are several reasons why drunk driving deaths are such a problem in Texas. One reason is the state’s large population. Derscheid, however, also believes that another reason is that “Texas is one of the last to come to the table as far as updating drunk driving laws, and when they finally put in the legislation, they took away a lot the judges could do as far as sentencing.”
If you have any questions regarding Texas DWI laws, you should contact an experienced Texas DWI attorney.