It’s true: everything’s bigger in Texas. However, as the great pacifist and philosopher Yoda once said, “Size matters not.” We agree. Bigger isn’t always better… especially when it comes to the number of drunk driving fatalities per year on Texas highways. And yet, as though Texas couldn’t get out from under her own oft-celebrated saying, Texas does, indeed, have the biggest number of drunk-driving-related crashes of any state in the US. In fact, it’s been that way for years.
We suspect that Texas culture has something to do with it. Texans are culturally credited as placing a high value on faith, family, …and football. Unfortunately, too often, football and other high-profile sports events are often associated with drinking. And, though it goes without saying, there are plenty of other places and events besides tailgating that are traditionally associated with drinking—parties, restaurant and bars, clubs, and especially cowboy culture. There’s a reason that all those beer commercials in Texas sport people in cowboy hats and boots. It’s almost like the media is telling Texans that their identity as hard-working farm folk is synonymous with beer-guzzling. The sad fact is that most Texans, especially young Texans, seem to believe it. As evidence, we point to the fact that Texans have their own brands of beers and dozens and dozens of breweries across the state… so many, we didn’t bother to count them all. Even the top-brand brewery, Miller, which would have no problem selling their beer to Texans, still offer a special Texas-brand exclusive, Lone Star beer.
In short, beer is to Texans as maple syrup is to Canadians. And all this drinking really does have an effect—often a detrimental effect, at best, and a fatal effect, at worst. And, all this drinking contributes to staggering Texas drunk driving statistics:
- Almost 40% of all Texas roadway accidents are alcohol-related
- There are always over a thousand (often several thousand) drunk-driving-related crashes in Texas every year
- Texas highways see a drunk driving crash about every twenty minutes
- As we said, there are more drunk driving accidents in Texas than any other state
2020 Crash Statistics:
- In 2020, Texas roadways saw more than 20,000 alcohol-related deaths
- More than 70% of drunk drivers involved in fatal crashes had a blood-alcohol content level of .15% (+), which is more than twice the legal limit of .08%. 75% of such drivers were repeat offenders
Clearly, drunk driving in Texas is a serious problem. But what can we do about it? If you live in Texas, like we do, it’s hard not to throw up your hands in despair. How can we fight such a large population with such a strong tradition and love of beer culture? Is there anything we can do to drive down those high numbers, or are we doomed from the start?
Don’t fear, Texans. We’re not called the Lone Star State for nothing. Far from only signifying our fiercely independent nature, we take the Lone Star to also symbolize the fact that even one lone Texan can radiate hope, even in the darkest sky. Your individual efforts at combating drinking and driving are what will make the difference. It all starts with educating yourself on the facts about drinking and driving, and then making responsible decisions of your own before turning to gently educate and guide the people in your community.
Let’s start by exposing some myths Texans commonly believe about drinking and driving:
Drunk-driving Myth #1: Po-dunk rural towns with nothing better to do have the biggest drinking problems.
Truth: The larger, busier, and even the more cultured the city, the more beer is likely to be consumed. For instance, Houston, Dallas, and Austin, three of the largest cities in Texas, also shoulder the responsibility for the most drunk-driving fatalities. Dallas alone had more than 1,200 alcohol-related crashes in 2020. San Antonio had more than 1800, Houston nearly 1500, Austin over 1400, and El Paso more than 750. Drunk driving affects everyone in every town, even the small ones like Harker Heights and Rosenberg.
Drunk-driving Myth #2: Drunk driving mostly effects teens and young adults, not people in my age group.
Truth: Only a little more than 21% of all alcohol-related accident fatalities happen to people between the ages of 21-25. Thus, about 79% of all alcohol-related crash fatalities happen to people older (and a very slim percentage younger) than 21-25. Again, don’t be fooled. Just like people in any city are prone to drink, they’re also prone to drink and drive at any age.
Drunk-driving Myth #3: Most drunk drivers come out at night, so if I stay off the roads between 1-3am, I should be safe.
Truth: Only around 26% of drunk driving fatalities occur early in the morning (between 1 and 3am). This means that between 77-78% of crashes happen at other times of the day. Just like drunk driving fatalities can happen to anyone, anywhere, they can also happen at any time of the day. We hope you’re recognizing a pattern here!
Drunk-driving Myth #4: The law is already hard enough on drunk drivers, and between the law and the police force, you can’t get away with drunk driving anyway.
Truth: On average, people drink and drive more than 80 times before they are either arrested or involved in a crash. Thus, if you see a driver you suspect of being drunk, don’t assume the cops will catch them. Make the call! Also, please don’t allow this statistic to make you feel safer getting behind the wheel when you’re drunk. What it means is that the law can’t catch every drunk driver every time, and so there are masses of dangerous drivers on the road who shouldn’t be, and you and your family and friends may be driving next to them! It’s true that you risk the penalty of the law when you drink and drive, but this should not be the only deterrent. If the law doesn’t catch you, you could end up being one of the drunk driving crash statistics that are so high!
Drunk-driving Myth #5: I haven’t had that much to drink, I’m not going that far, and I won’t take public roads. Besides, I know a bunch of tricks to get me sober.
Truth: There are NO tricks to sober you up after you’ve had too much to drink—not coffee, not exercise, not cold showers, not fresh air, not pills, not even eating a heavy meal with your alcohol. There are no shortcuts. Alcohol will stay in your system and WILL impair your driving, making a crash likely, no matter which roads you take or how long you’re on them. Please: don’t risk it!
Perhaps the biggest risk of all is believing the myth that you alone can’t do anything to fight the tragic consequences of drinking and driving. “Sure, I can not drink myself,” you think, “but I can’t stop everybody else out there.” Don’t believe the lie that you can’t make a difference! The first step is, indeed, drinking responsibly yourself. You will never help the situation by joining the problem. Drink responsibly, know your limits, obey the law. If you do drink, make sure you are over 21 and have a truly designated driver. But even if you don’t touch alcohol, your positive influence does not stop there! You can always discourage others from drinking too much:
- Don’t push alcohol on friends and family. Everyone can have plenty of fun without getting drunk. Why push alcohol into people’s hands when it will NOT enhance fun but WILL enhance dangerous driving? Don’t let anyone push alcohol at you that you don’t want to drink, and DON’T push it onto anyone else.
- Offer lots of salt-free snacks or a meal at parties and events where alcohol is served. This will slow down people’s desire to drink.
- Offer lots of alcohol-free drink options, such as energy drinks, vitamin waters, sodas, juices, coffee, or smoothies. The options are endless, and some of them may even taste better and be far cheaper than alcohol!
- Don’t let others have access to their keys if they’ve been drinking at all. Collect people’s keys at the door of your event, and don’t return them if you detect any alcohol consumption. Does that seem cruel or embarrassing to you? Imagine that you did allow someone who’d been drinking to drive, and though they “looked sober,” they actually had a BAC over the legal limit. Imagine that person gets pulled over on the way home. Or, imagine they don’t get pulled over and run into a tree—or another car—instead. Is the risk worth it? Whether or not your friends thank you later is unimportant compared to the duty and responsibility you have to ensure your friends (and everyone else on the road) are safe.
- Call people who’ve been drinking an Uber, Lyft, or taxi ride before they get ready to leave. Stop the danger before it starts!
- If you aren’t able to stop someone from driving after they’ve been drinking, call the cops IMMEDIATELY. Better for your friends to pay a fine than to pay for their mistakes with their life or someone else’s.
- Set an example and educate your friends. Try a party in which you don’t serve alcohol at all! “Fun you can remember” was our motto in school and at the office, and guess what? We had a blast and made memories we would never have remembered had alcohol been involved. Get creative with other drink options. Then, show or tell your friends why you don’t drink. If they’re willing to listen, educate them about what may happen if they consume alcohol irresponsibly.
The fact is, you CAN’T dictate what other people do, but you CAN love them and influence them to make positive choices.
And you’re not alone. Here’s what Texas is doing to help curb drunk driving:
- Drunk driving laws. These laws state that it is illegal to have ANY trace of alcohol in your system under the age of 21, and illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration of .o8% or more if you’re over 21.
- License suspension and jail time. There are harsh penalties for drunk driving, and they’re not restricted to just heavy fines.
- Checkpoints to test sobriety. Cops may set up sobriety checkpoints at any place and time to test certain or even all drivers for signs of impaired driving. Breath tests may be administered.
- Ignition lock devices. Usually for repeat offenders, though it would go a long way to install them on first-time offenders’ cars, ignition locks are devices that must be blown into and check that a driver’s BAC content is at a certain low level before it will allow the car’s engine to engage.
- Media anti-drunk-driving campaigns. You’ve probably seen the anti-drunk driving commercials, and there are several groups such as M.A.D.D. (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) that also circulate their own anti-drinking and driving materials.
- School anti-drunk-driving campaigns. These can be programs such as D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) that teach school children from an early age the harmful effects of drinking and driving.
You can support Texas’ efforts by promoting drinking responsibly. A life may depend on it! Remember: without alcohol, you’re free to drive until your heart’s content. Life’s a journey. Enjoy the ride!