As driving schools throughout Texas are doing their best to highlight; the Lone Star State does have issues with drunk driving. For the past several years, Texas has led the country in drunken driving fatalities. Texas is also the only state in the country to consistently clear 1,000 fatalities (1,235 in 2009, 1,258 in 2010, and 1270 in 2011). These statistics aren’t even including alcohol related injury and property damage, which are numbers that climb even higher.
The truth that must be confronted is that Texas has a clear problem with intoxication and driving. Driving schools continue to teach and inform the gravity of the ever increasing drunk driving penalties. Good habits begin in driving school and stretch into the future, as roughly 15% of drunken driving fatalities are due to the impairment of a driver under 21 years old (the legal drinking limit). Harsher laws have been developed in an attempt to curb the increasing mortalities; laws that can severely debilitate a young driver’s financial and driving independence. The following is a rundown of some of the underage drinking and driving laws in Texas, and how those laws can make things harder for a minor who runs the risk and is caught.
Firstly, Texas is a Zero Tolerance state. This means that if a minor who is pulled over under suspicion is found to have ANY DETECTABLE amount of alcohol in their system, they have immediately committed a DUIA (Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol) crime; even if their BAC is under the legal limit. As a minor, they should have no contact with alcohol to begin with, thus driving while drinking any amount is that much more serious.
When pulled over, the minor will be asked to submit to a breathalyzer test to check their BAC. Once again, if any BAC level is blown, the minor will be charged. However, refusing the test could be much worse. Refusing the breathalyzer, blood test, or field sobriety test will result in IMMEDIATE license suspension for a minimum of 120 days, with suspension increasing for a second and third offense. On top of the suspension, the minor can be placed in jail and held until bond is made or they appear before a magistrate of Juvenile Court.
The penalties themselves are very much reliant on oh the judge’s discretion, though there are definite benchmarks of minimum and maximum. The givens laws for DUIA offenses are:
1st Offense DUIA – Class C misdemeanor with up to a $500.00 fine and between 20-40 hours community service. Driver’s license can be suspended for up to a full year, and completion of an Alcohol Awareness Course at driving school is required. If the minor is under 18, their parent may be required to take the course as well.
2nd Offense DUIA – Class C misdemeanor with up to a $500.00 fine and between 40-60 hours community service. License suspension for up to a full year as well as the Alcohol Awareness Course is required.
3rd Offense DUIA – If the driver is under 17, the DUIA is filed as “Delinquent Conduct.” Punishment is up to a $500.00 fine and between 40-60 hours community service. License will be suspended until the minor is 19 years or older
– If the minor is 17 years or older, the DUIA is a class B misdemeanor that carries a fine of at least $500.00 up to $2,000.00, 40-60 hours community service, and up to 180 days in jail.
The trouble simply is not worth the risk. Thousands of adults and children meet their end each year due to a preventable drunken driving accident. These laws are in place to deter and prevent fatalities so that we can begin to chip away at these regrettable statistics. For more information, contact your local driving school. And remember, Zero Tolerance.