If you plan to be out and about on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, use extra caution; the two holidays represent an especially dangerous time for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.
Austin police arrest more people for driving under the influence on New Year’s Day than any other day of the year. The increased number of DUI arrests comes as no surprise, with so many people drinking irresponsibly at New Year’s Eve parties, then making the decision to get behind the wheel.
For you and your family, those impaired drivers cause a heightened risk of severe injury or death. Nationwide, more than half of New Year’s Day deaths involve impaired driving.
What do you need to know about the threat of drunken drivers on Austin roads over the New Year’s holiday, and what action should you take if you or a loved one already has been injured?
Driving under the influence is a crime in which a driver operates a vehicle while exceeding the legal limit for alcohol. In Austin, the 2017 No Refusal initiative netted 230 arrests for offenses related to driving while impaired — or DWI — between Dec. 15, 2016, and Jan. 2, 2017. Officers conducted the initiative nightly between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Of those arrests, 32 individuals gave a breath sample resulting in a blood-alcohol level over 0.15, with the highest being .319. A man weighing about 160 pounds would score a 0.14 on a blood-alcohol test by having about six drinks in one hour. A woman of the same weight would score approximately 0.17 after consuming the same number of drinks in an hour. The legal limit for driving in Texas is 0.08.
While driving anywhere around Austin can be dangerous on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day with so many impaired drivers on the roadways, some areas pose more risk than others. The most common locations for DUI collisions in the city include 601 E. 15th St. and 509 W. 11th St., each having been the site of 30 crashes over a five-year span.
Seven collisions occurred over that period at 901 W. Ben White Blvd. EB, while four crashes occurred during the same time period at East Riverside Drive/South IH-35 Service Road and 700 E. 7th St., near the municipal court.
Around Austin, law enforcement officers do their best to stop people from driving while impaired on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. However, people continue this dangerous and criminal practice, putting themselves, their family members, and innocent people on the roads at significant risk.
Despite increasingly strict laws and enforcement measures relating to DUI, a disproportionate number of people leave home on New Year’s Eve intending to consume alcohol. Many do not have a plan for getting home safely or, in the throes of inebriation, they abandon any sensible plans made earlier.
Consumers receive mixed messages about drinking. On the one hand, they hear about stepped-up holiday enforcement efforts. On the other, they encounter constant advertising with the message that drinking is necessary for having a good time and fitting in.
Over a five-year span — from 2012 to 2016 — police made more than 30,000 DUI arrests in Austin. Jan. 1 consistently stands as the day of the year with the highest number of DUIs. Arrests for driving under the influence on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day stayed relatively steady — between 42 and 46 — from 2012 to 2015, then spiked to 61 in 2016.
Since 2012, more than 12 percent of the DUI arrests in Austin represented a second alleged offense; 2.25 percent were arrests for a third or higher DUI. Nationwide, MADD reports that about a third of drivers arrested or convicted of driving under the influence are repeat offenders.
One recent Texas case illustrates the problem. Officers publicized that they’d be out in force on New Year’s Eve, yet a North Dallas man crashed into a light pole and was arrested for driving while intoxicated. Like so many others arrested for DUI, the suspect had a previous arrest, but his was unusual in that it also occurred on Dec. 31. For his prior offense, the man served 180 days in jail and two years probation, and he paid a fine of $800.
No matter what efforts Austin law enforcement officers take to get drunken drivers off the roads, some individuals continue to drink and drive. Motorists under the influence of alcohol endanger you and your loved ones, whether you’re in a car, on a bicycle or on foot.
If you or a family member have been injured by a driver who was under the influence of alcohol, you deserve compensation for your injuries to cover your medical bills, time lost from work, and other financial harm. For a consultation with an experienced drunk driving accident attorney, contact CPM Injury Law, P.C.