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NTSB Encourages Texas to Crack Down on Hard-Core Drunk Drivers

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), almost 11,000 people died in 2009 in drunken driving crashes, accounting for 32 percent of traffic-related fatalities.

Of DWI-related crashes, more than 70 percent involve “hard-core” offenders, says the NTSB. Hard-core drunk drivers include repeat offenders and those caught with high blood alcohol concentrations (typically around .15 which is almost twice the legal limit of .08).

“Hard-core drunk drivers are, in many ways, resistant to the countermeasures we’ve applied since the early ’80s,” noted AAA Traffic Safety Director Jake Nelson. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was founded in the early 1980s; deaths from drunk driving accidents have dropped from over 50 percent to around 30 percent in the 30 years since MADD’s campaign began.

Texas has seen a distributing trend in hard-core DWI offenders, noted one Texas police chief. Tom Dickson, Chief of the Lorena Police Department (south of Waco), said, “We’re not seeing the .08’s or .09’s anymore, we’re seeing .23’s and .28’s.”

Efforts to Combat Hard-Core Drunk Drivers

As reported in USA Today, DUI penalties have not seemed to deter repeat impaired and hard-core drunk drivers. As a result, the NTSB is currently campaigning to combat hard-core drunk driving by urging states to adopt an 11-point program to reduce it. While no state has adopted all 11 recommendations, several are slowly integrating various components into their own legal system.

Texas, which, according to USA Today, has some of the deadliest roads in America, plans on introducing a bill in the state legislature in 2011 that would allow sobriety checkpoints. Texas is currently one of 10 states that ban DWI checkpoints.

Of the remaining 10 actions, Texas has already incorporated four of them:

  • Increased penalties for repeat offenders and first-time DWI offenders with high blood alcohol concentrations
  • Revocation of driver’s license for refusing to take a breath, blood or urine test when suspected of drunk driving
  • Retention of DWI records for at least 10 years to track repeat offenders
  • Specialized court programs and sanctions for hard-core drunk drivers

The NTSB would like to see Texas work on implementing the other six actions, in hopes that it will help reduce the large proportion of the nation’s injuries and fatalities due to impaired Texas drivers.

Sources: NTSB pushes zero tolerance of hard-core drunken drivers; Texas one of worst states for preventing drunk-driving deaths: report