In 2002, LSU’s Department of Public Health and Preventative Medicine, ranked 97 cities, to determine which cities had the most alcohol-related fatalities. According to the study, Dallas topped the list, with 10 deaths per 100,000 people.

When it comes to determining the prevalence of drinking and driving, it can be difficult to rank cities based on DWI arrests alone. Some cities crack down on drinking and driving much harder than other municipalities. By tracking the number of people injured or killed by drunk drivers, researchers can have a better indication of the number of drunk drivers likely to be on the road. Of course, not every incidence of DWI will result in injury or death, but as the number of drunk individuals on the highways increase, so will the number of accidents and deaths.

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Yet, why does Dallas top the nation in drunk driving deaths?

D Magazine argues that poor public transportation and over-reliance on cars may be the main contributing factor. The prevalence of highways in Dallas leads to increased dispersion of people to remote areas of the city and to the suburbs, making it more likely that people will drive to get around rather than live in dense urban areas that are serviced by public transportation. D Magazine argues that Texas’s open-container law funds the construction of highways, increasing the problem of drinking and driving rather than curbing the problem as the law ostensibly intends to do.

In 2010, Texas was ranked as one of the worst states for the prevention of drinking and driving fatalities. According to Dallas News, the National Transportation Safety Board listed Texas as one of ten states that failed to implement increased measures to prevent drunk driving fatalities. According to Dallas News, in 2009 alone 40% of traffic-related fatalities involved a DWI driver. Texas is also one of the few states that doesn’t sanction field sobriety checkpoints.   Mothers Against Drunk Driving wants to change that. According to MADD field sobriety checkpoints serve as strong deterrents against drunk drivers.

MADD also supports the use of ignition interlock devices for DWI offenders. Ignition interlock devices are placed on a car’s ignition system. Prior offenders who are required to install the devices on their cars will be required to submit to a breath test each and every time they get behind the wheel. If the ignition interlock device registers a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit, the car will not start.

Research has shown that ignition interlock devices help keep drunk drivers off the road and are particularly effective in handling repeat DWI offenders. MADD also recommends that first-time offenders be required to use ignition interlock devices rather than being subject to license suspension. Ignition interlocks have been found to be more effective in keeping these drivers off the road after they have been drinking because many individuals choose to drive even with a suspended license. Requiring these drivers to use an ignition interlock device ensures that they have access to their cars to get to work and rehab programs, while ensuring that they do not drive if they have been drinking.

Yet, at the end of the day, drinking and driving is a choice. And, when it comes to the decision to drink and drive, individuals in Dallas, Texas, make that choice more often than do individuals in other cities and states. According to the Dallas Observer, individuals who have had alcohol and who do not have a designated driver essentially have two choices. Drive home drunk or hire an expensive cab. For many people, hiring a cab is simply financially not feasible.

Dallas can do more work to reward designated drivers and to encourage parties to assign designated drivers before going out to drink. Yet, this alone won’t be enough to stop drinking and driving altogether. Public transportation along with city-sponsored services to get people home after drinking could help mitigate the problem. Many cities have implemented designated driver services and hire cabs to give people a “free ride back.” According to Dallas currently has a few services in place. Increased awareness, increased utilization of public transportation, and improvements to infrastructure will likely lead to a reduction in Dallas’s DWI rates and fatalities.

Contact John L Corn Law Offices at 214-528-4529 for answers to your legal questions about drinking and driving in the state of Texas.