Crashes Caused by DUIs Sees Decrease Trend

Austin has shown a decrease trend in crashes caused by drivers under the influence of alcohol, according to the Texas Department of Transportation or TxDOT.

Between 2008 and 2011, there has been a decrease of 211 car crashes caused by DUIs. There are rough estimates of car crash numbers caused by DUIs, but TxDOT will not release numbers until later this year.

“I am very excited and pleased that the City of Austin has seen a decrease in DUI-related crashes,” TxDot Information Specialist Jim Cotton said. “Texas has a long standing history of DWI and DUI problems and it is one of our major causes of traffic fatalities and injuries.”

There is a large amount of arrests in the downtown area due to the high concentration of bars, yet most automobile crashes are spread out throughout the city of Austin said Richard Mabe, DWI coordinator for the Austin Police Department.

“From the first day of January to present day, there have been 706 arrests for DWIs in Austin,” Mabe said. “Ballpark figure for [2012] was 6200 arrests for DWIs.”

Driving with a blood-alcohol content, the amount of alcohol in a person’s blood, that is higher than 0.08, is considered illegal.

Mabe said APD uses public service announcements, enforcement and education to help inform citizens and minimize the number of crashes. Even though they try to minimize the amount of crashes caused by DUIs, they do not work with TxDot.

TxDot tries to minimize DUIs and DWIs by administering the Texas Traffic Safety Program where they develop a large number of statewide projects that focus on DWIs and DUIs. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation funds the Texas Traffic Safety Program.

“We […] provide additional enforcement funding for law enforcement agencies to increase their efforts in areas where they have a known DWI Program,” Cotton said. “We also provide grants for training for prosecutors regarding DWI cases.”

Thirty-two percent of all traffic deaths occurred in crashes where one of the drivers had an illegal amount of alcohol in their blood, according to the 2007 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Drivers that have prior DUI convictions are not that likely to become repeat offenders. In 2007, only eight percent of drivers in fatal crashes with an illegal amount of blood-alcohol concentration had previous alcohol-impaired driving convictions on their records.

There are a variety of consequences for those causing a crash while under the influence of alcohol. For someone who is a first-time DWI or DUI offender, they are a Class B Misdemeanor and are subject to a 90-day license suspension, 72 hours to 180 days in jail and a $2000 fine.

If the first time offender had an illegal blood alcohol level, the fine would increase to $4000 and up to one year in jail.

“The penalties increase significantly for repeat offenders and for offenders who injure or kill someone. Legal fees for a standard DWI case are also very expensive, anywhere from $4,000 and up,” said Cotton. “Of course, getting arrested, going through the booking process and going to the county jail is a pretty significant consequence, as well.”

Christian-affiliated organizations at the University of Texas at Austin have joined together to create ATX Rides. ATX Rides is a free service offered once a month that picks students up from downtown Austin to the main campus and West Campus areas.

“[ATX Rides] is a safe way to get home, and [it] literally takes you right to your door,” sophomore education major and ATX Rides member Alexandra Rammell said. “We serve around 300 to 400 [a weekend]. That’s a rough estimate, but our vans are usually full, especially once people start heading home.”

Education and designated drivers are the key factors to keep the trend decreasing said Mabe.

“With the other devices that people are using, […], alcohol and drugs makes driving so much more dangerous out in the roadways,” Mabe said. “The time to designate a driver is not at two o’clock in the morning when you stumble out of a bar. You do that before you ever go out.”

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