Harris County has developed an underage DWI problem.
New data shows the Texas county is seeing a spike in driving while intoxicated charges, especially among people younger than 21. Houston often leads the nation in total fatal DWI crashes per year.
In 2019, the most recent year for crash data, there were 155 fatal DWI accidents in Houston.
Members of the Houston Police, Harris County Sheriff’s Office, and Texas Highway Patrol have noted that underage drunk driving charges have been climbing skyward since 2019.
The problem, some law enforcement and local drug rehabilitation specialists say, might be due to kids having more access to their parents’ alcohol.
Many students were forced to stay home and attend school remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
When they’re at school, a local counselor recently told the news, students don’t have access to home liquor cabinets.
In response to the spike in youth DWIs, some state officials are calling for more support of the “Don’t drink and drive” education and awareness campaign.
It needs more funding and personnel, they say.
This may not happen anytime soon, though. Texas lawmakers are focused on an alcohol-to-go bill right now.
What is driving the spike in Texas DWIs?
It’s hard to nail down what exactly makes one state have higher drunk driving rates than others.
However, Texas advocates calling for more anti-DWI funding seem to be on the right track.
Studies have found that swift, harsh penalties for DWI are important, but they don’t work as deterrents unless the public is aware of them and they are aggressively enforced by law enforcement.
Texas has tough laws but falls short when it comes to awareness and police crackdowns.
Created around 2010, the Texas Impaired Driving Task Force has taken an in-depth look at the state’s drunk driving problem and suggested a lot of solutions, including:
- Increase and sustain high-visibility DWI enforcement.
- Improve BAC tests.
- Improve anti-DWI public information campaigns.
- Increase intervention efforts.
- Improve training for law enforcement.
- Increase the use of warrants for mandatory blood alcohol content tests.
- Educate the public about interlock devices.
- Increase enforcement of driving under the influence by minors laws.
Harsh underage drunk driving laws in Texas
Texas has a “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to minors who drink and drive. If a person under 21 is driving with any alcohol in their system they can be charged criminally with Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol By a Minor (DUIA).
In extreme cases, minors can be charged as adults for alcohol and drug-related offenses, including DWI.
For a first DUIA offense, a child under age 17 faces a fine of up to $500, 20 to 40 hours of community service, and a driver's license suspension for 60 to 180 days.
For people 17 to 21 years old, the penalty for a first drunk driving offense is a fine of up to $2,000, confinement in jail for at least 72 hours and up to 180 days, and a one-year suspension of driving privileges.
Houston roadways with the most DWIs
Some roadways have seen more fatal DWI accidents than others.
Here are some of the roads with the most DWI deaths in Houston:
- Aldine Road
- East Freeway
- Farm-to-Market Road 529
- Southwest Freeway
- Westheimer Road
A lawyer can help if you've been injured by a drunk driver
Drunk driving crashes are among the most severe and avoidable types of motor vehicle accidents. When a reckless drunk driver hurts you or a loved one in a crash, it's important to protect your legal rights and seek maximum compensation for your damages.
Without the help of an experienced attorney, you might accept an unfair settlement from the insurance company and end up having to pay out of your own pocket for expenses you did not create.
If you were severely injured or a loved one died in a Houston-area crash caused by a drunk driver, you have the right to hold the at-fault driver accountable through the civil justice system — and the Law Offices of Gene S. Hagood can help.
Keep in mind that any criminal charges the other driver faces are separate from your civil case, which means you can still recover compensation for your damages even if charges are reduced or dropped against the driver who hit you.
Learn how an experienced car accident lawyer who delivers results — one client at a time — can help you. We proudly serve clients in Alvin, Houston, Galveston, Harris County, and all of Texas. We also offer legal representation on a contingency fee basis, which means we only get paid if we win your case.
Contact us right now to schedule your free consultation. We would be honored to speak with you about your potential legal case.