Austin, TX- The nation’s leading anti-drunken driving advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is pressuring lawmakers to pass tougher laws in the state, by introducing two bills they believe will prevent unnecessary deaths.
“Texas is the worst state for the number of [alcohol-related] fatalities in the country. I’m proud to be a Texan, but this is something not to be proud about in Texas,” said Debbie Weir, chief executive officer of MADD, according to NBC Dallas-Fort Worth.
One of the two bills would allow police to set up sobriety checkpoints throughout the state, which is currently illegal in Texas. Another bill would require ignition interlock devices for drivers who have been convicted of their first DUI.
There is growing support on the federal and state level for ignition interlock devices for first offenders. Currently, only 17 states require these devices that prevent the car from starting if the driver has been drinking, but National Traffic Safety Board chairman Deborah Hersman says they should be a requirement for a first offense to cut down on fatal and injurious DUI accidents.
Studies have shown that 50 percent of first-time DUI offenders are likely to drive drunk again. Some lawmakers and MADD believe ignition interlock devices are the best way to prevent repeat DUI offenses.
Weir told NBC that MADD does not focus on penalties instead her organization is focused on prevention. Weir said MADD instead, “look(S) at the research as to what is proven to be an effective deterrent. And I’d say right now, for Texas, these two bills, sobriety checkpoints and interlock for all convicted offenders. And we try to stay focused on the things we know that will work.”
At least one-third of all fatal traffic accidents are caused by drunk drivers.
Weir expressed frustration over how casually drunk driving offenders are treated by their peers and the media. Weir was referring to two high-profile DUI arrest over the past 12 month.
Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman, Josh Brent was given hugs and handshakes after causing a DUI accident that killed one of his teammate Jerry Brown. Brent was charged with DUI manslaughter, but the public showing of support trivializes his actions.
When State Representative Naomi Gonzalez was arrested with a blood alcohol level over twice the legal limit her fellow lawmakers applauded her return and she even received high-fives.
“There are ways to support. But that public outpouring of support, that really sends the wrong message; almost like it’s really not a big deal,” said Weir.
This is the fourth time MADD has tried to introduce these two bills to the Texas legislature.
DUIs are a big deal, ask anyone who has had one. Even though most first-offenders are able to avoid lengthy jail sentences with the help of a DUI attorney, there are still a number of legal headaches the offender must endure. Ignition interlocks are not mandatory after a first offense, but many people find they must install these devices just to be able to drive following their first conviction.