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By Jim Adler December 6, 2016

Drunk drivers kill as many as 1,446 persons yearly in Texas (as in 2014), and the death toll can be especially high during the year-end holidays. That’s why the Texas Department of Transportation has run DUI (driving under the influence) campaigns during holiday seasons, urging drivers to be safe and “plan while you can” to avoid driving after drinking.

TxDOT reports that 110 persons were killed and 190 were seriously injured in drunk driving-crashes during the 2014-2015 Christmas holiday season alone.

As for arrests, according to Select Insurance Group, among the 1.4 million Americans arrested for a first-time drunk driving offense in 2015, Texas had 99,195 arrests and 71,030 convictions.

Texas Drunk Driving Laws Are Strict

Already, Texas ranks 10th among the 50 states for strict drunk driving laws, according to wallethub.com. But while Texas ranks seventh in terms of tough criminal penalties, it ranks only 30th in terms of actual drunk driving prevention.

What are the penalties of Texas’ drunk driving laws?

Minors (who are under 21 years old) are subject to a zero tolerance law in Texas and can face these penalties for a first-time drunk driving offense (with penalties rising after the first offense):

  • $500 fine
  • Suspension of driver’s license for up to one year
  • Community service
  • Ignition interlock device placed on vehicle
  • 12-hour Alcohol Education Program

Adults who are 21 and over can face these penalties in Texas for a first-time DUI offense:

  • Jail time for as many as 180 days
  • $2,000 fine
  • Suspension of driver’s license for up to two years
  • Yearly fee of up to $2,000 for the next three years to retain driver’s license
  • DWI intervention or education program
  • Ignition interlock device

The ignition interlock device became required by all drunk drivers after arrest via a relatively new Texas law, signed by Gov. Greg Abbott on June 19, 2015. Such devices measure blood alcohol content (BAC) before a car can be started.

Texas law holds that an adult with a BAC of 0.08 per cent or higher is drunk. This is the standard in most other states as well. For commercial drivers in Texas, 0.04 per cent or higher BAC constitutes drunk driving.

In addition, drivers or passengers can be fined up to $500 for having an open alcohol container in a vehicle. Also, drivers can be charged with child endangerment for driving while intoxicated if any passenger in the vehicle is 15 years old or younger.

Holiday Safe Driving Tips

Jim Adler offers many holiday safe driving tips in his blog. When it comes to driving and drinking, he advises Texans to get a designated driver at the wheel who doesn’t drink, and to be especially alert to erratic driving by possible drunk drivers.

If you spot someone who may be drunk while driving, Jim Adler advises you to give them as much room as possible, and also consider calling 911 to report erratic driving.

Check out these and other holiday safe driving tips from Jim Adler, and be prepared as the year-end holidays approach.

Texas’ Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) also offers support for drunk driving victims.

You can learn more about MADD and its commendable efforts to fight drunk driving in another Jim Adler blog post.

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