Institute Reviews Texas' DWI Laws

With Texas leading the nation in alcohol-related crashes and fatalities, the Crime Victims' Institute recently reviewed the state’s laws on alcohol impaired driving and recommended a broader use of ignition interlock devices, sobriety checkpoints, and mandatory education and treatment programs for first-time offenders.

"As many as 25 percent of drivers in this country admit to having driven under the influence of alcohol,” said Dr. Glen Kercher, Director of the Crime Victims" Institute at Sam Houston State University. “As many as three out of every 10 drivers are at risk for being involved in an alcohol-related crash at some point in their lives….We hope this report will stimulate further discussion and lead to more effective ways to reduce alcohol impaired driving.”

In a reported entitled “Alcohol Impaired Driving in Texas,” Dr. Kercher and Andrea Weiss concluded that despite improvements in Texas to address alcohol-impaired driving, more needs to be done. The report recommends a law allowing the implementation of sobriety checkpoints throughout the state, and broader uses of technology, such as ignition interlock devices and SCRAM ankle bracelets.

There are also recommendations for greater use of mandatory education, assessment and treatment for impaired drivers, especially when used as tools to prevent “first time offenders from becoming chronic offenders.”

The report acknowledges that "despite improvements in the response to alcohol impaired driving, it continues to take its tolls on the American driver either in terms of crashes, injuries or death. Technology such as interlock devices has added to the options available in the courts. Such technology has demonstrated effectiveness in reducing alcohol related automobile crashes and fatalities."

Interlock devices can be installed in a vehicle to prevent it from starting when a driver blows into the device, and it registers a blood alcohol content level higher than a pre-determined acceptable level. Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitors (SCRAM) combine continuous alcohol monitoring with GPS or house arrest technology.

According to the report, 64 percent of the public support the imposition of interlock devices as a mandatory sanction for first-time offenders, while 80 percent support it for repeat offenders. In addition, judges in the study reported that SCRAM ankle devices are a very important tool for offenders with a history of drugs and alcohol use and commented that “their use should be encouraged, especially when combined with cameras.” Finally, the report supported a recent bill before the Texas Legislature, H.B. 439, which would allow for sobriety checkpoints in the state. The bill would help extend the impact of non-refusal weekends to allow law enforcement officers to screen all suspected people. The Crime Victims’ Institute collaborated with Texas Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) on this report. The Crime Victims’ Institute (CVI) was created in 1995 to study the impact of crime on victims, their families and society. CVI also evaluates the effectiveness of criminal justice policy and juvenile justice policy in preventing the victimization of society by criminal acts and helps develop policies to assist the criminal justice system and the juvenile justice system in preventing the criminal victimization of society.

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