Drunk driving is a scourge on Texas roadways that killed 1,337 people in 2013. One of every 10 drunk-driving deaths in our nation happens right here in Texas.
The Texas Legislature has the power to greatly reduce tragedies like these by passing House Bill 2246, authored by Rep. Jason Villalba.
The legislation allows drivers arrested for DWI to install in-car breathalyzers if they choose to drive during an administratively imposed license suspension.
The interlock user exhales into the interlock device, and the vehicle will not start if the alcohol content is above the device’s programmed level.
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This is a proven and affordable safety measure that saves lives. Twenty-four states already have similar laws and have experienced reductions in drunk driving fatalities of up to 45 percent.
Ignition interlocks are not new in Texas. Judges already order interlocks for convicted drunk drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of at least .15 — nearly twice the legal limit — and for repeat offenders.
Judges also have the option of ordering an interlock for drivers with a BAC of .08 to .14. Judicial discretion would not change under HB 2246.
With Texas leading the nation in drunk driving deaths, we must do more to stop these preventable crimes.
Currently, Texas immediately suspends the licenses of people who are arrested for drunk driving, then decides whether to grant them an occupational license.
HB 2246 would require installation of an ignition interlock device for anyone who chooses to obtain an occupational license and drive during the suspension period.
This is not hard or soft on crime. It is a proven method to protect the public while allowing an offender to continue with their jobs and support their families.
MADD is not moved by opponents who say that it is unfair to impose an interlock on people they would consider “marginal” drunk drivers with a BAC below .15.
Let’s be clear: There is no such thing as a marginal offender — just ask the families and friends of the 441 victims killed in Texas in 2013 by those with a BAC between .08 and .14.
Every person who drives at .08 and above has chosen to break the law. Their judgment is impaired, their reaction times are slower and they experience cognitive distortion.
Once they are behind the wheel, their vehicle becomes a weapon aimed randomly at innocent people. This is as true for the first offense as it is for the fifth or sixth.
Forty percent of all traffic deaths in Texas are caused by a drunk driver.
As president of MADD, headquartered right here in Texas, I urge members of the Texas House and Senate to pass HB 2246 to prevent this completely preventable crime on Texas roadways.
Colleen Sheehey-Church is the national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).