It’s no secret that driving after consuming alcohol is dangerous to yourself and to others around you. Unfortunately, we’ve represented several people in our great state who were harmed by drunk drivers and their lives were changed forever. We hear “Don’t drink and drive” all the time but sometimes when you hear a message so often, you don’t pay as much attention to it anymore. Sometimes a message is more impactful when it’s presented visually. Working together with data visualization company, 1 Point21 Interactive, we wanted to take a deeper look at alcohol involved accidents in the state of Texas over the past 4 years. Together we analyzed data from the Texas Department of Transportation for 2012-2015. The map above shows all the alcohol involved car crashes in the state of Texas in 2015. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, there were 24,635 crashes this past year alone.
Generally speaking, the larger the population the more alcohol involved crashes there will be in a city (although that’s not always the case). We wanted to find out which cities residents are involved in the most crashes involving alcohol, so we looked at the number on a per capita basis. Below are the results of the cities with a population of 250,000 or more.
On average, there are approximately three crashes related to a DUI every hour in Texas. This was emphasized by our study visualizing where all of the DUI-related accidents occurred in 2015, and then ranking the cities where most of them happen; Lubbock had the highest rate of these types of accidents, with 139 per capita. The rest of the top five, in order, consisted of San Antonio, Austin, Arlington and El Paso.
The Texas Department of Transportation (DOT) keeps detailed records of when and where every one of these accidents occur, and there are certainly times when they are more likely; that will be covered in just a moment. But it’s worth noting that Texas has some of the most strict penalties in the country for drinking and driving.
Texas has an implied consent law, as does every other state, and it means that if you are arrested under the suspicion of driving under the influence, you must submit to a breathalyzer or a blood test. If you refuse, your license is automatically suspended for 180 days, no exceptions. This is average compared to the rest of the country in terms of how strict the punishment is, and your refusal can be used against you in a court of law. You can technically still refuse, unless the accident involved injuries and/or fatalities.
License suspensions and potential jail sentences vary greatly upon the amount of personal and property damage that was incurred by the accident, as well as the number of offenses. An important note about that is Texas has no “lookback” limits, meaning that even if your only prior offense happened 25 years ago, it would still count against you.
Fines can also have a broad range, and this all depends on whether you are over 21, have a passenger under the age of 15, have an open container in the car, and/or whether you are driving a commercial vehicle. Even for a first offense, the fine can be as high as $2,000, but if you have a child under the age of 15 in the car, it counts as child endangerment, and the fine could approach $10,000 for that. Jail sentences range from 3 days to a year in the first offense, the length of which also depends on the conditions listed above. Two DUI convictions within five years requires the installation of an interlock device.
Our study showcases the top 10 cities with a population of greater than 250,000 where DUI crashes occur, but when exactly do most of them happen? According to Texas DOT, most of them happen on Sunday morning between 2-3 a.m., with 891 happening during this time in 2015 alone. Many can guess why; in big cities, the bars close around this time and people who have had too much to drink decide to drive home. This same time period on Saturday morning saw 869 DUI-related accidents, so the early morning hours on weekends are by far the most dangerous to be on the road.
The age group with the most DUI crashes in 2015 yields no surprises as well, with those between 21-25 accounting for 21.7 percent of total accidents. Those under 21 comprised 8.6 percent of statewide accidents, which was only the fifth most amongst all the age groups.
Texas is a large state with approximately 15.7 million registered drivers, second only to California. About twice as many crashes occurred in urban areas as they did in rural areas, but on a per capita basis, the study shows that smaller cities and large suburbs of the big cities can be just as dangerous as the large cities themselves.