Cindy: Every year over 10,000 people die in drunk driving accidents in the United States, that’s an average of about 1 person per hour and hundreds of thousands of others are injured in alcohol related accidents. Annually the monetary cost of dui car crashes raise up to a staggering 37 Billion dollars. Similarly, other controlled substances such as illegal drugs are a factor in almost 18% of car driver deaths. We’ve come a long way since the first drunk driving laws were established but clearly drunk and impaired driving are still a major issue affecting our country today and it requires discussion. Houston attorney, Terry Byrant, is here today to answer questions about drunk and impaired driving and how we can protect ourselves and our children from the danger presented by drunk drivers on the road. So, Terry, thanks for being here today.
Terry: I’m glad to be here. Thank you.
Cindy: Well, Terry, is there a difference between drunk driving and driving while impaired.
Terry: Yes. Technically there is. Driving while impaired is duly considered driving while you’re under the influence of some drug or intoxicating substance whereas driving while intoxicated applies to alcohol and we call that DWI in Texas. Those are separate things. Both of them are criminal and they’re very dangerous to other folks on the road because the person’s reaction time is worse and those sorts of things. And the test on this is whether the person had lost their normal faculties whether they can react like they need to in a normal driving situation. And then in the case of minors there’s a special no tolerance provision in the law and the minor cannot have any detectable alcohol in his or her system.
Cindy: Let me ask you this, Terry. Does the impaired driver have to be driving a car? Can an individual be arrested for impaired driving if they’re in a non-traditional vehicle?
Terry: Absolutely. They can be charged for driving while intoxicated so to speak even though they’re driving some non-traditional vehicle. The test is if a driver operating a motor vehicle in a public place and a motor vehicle is very broadly defined in the statute and so if a person is operating a boat they’ll be charged, while boating while intoxicated. Also flying while intoxicated is something that comes to mind. So, yeah, it doesn’t have to be a traditional car to be charged with this crime or be held accountable.
Cindy: Well, Terry, what can drivers do proactively to protect themselves from drunk or impaired drivers on the road?
Terry: There is a couple of things that comes to mind. I think that one thing is avoid those parts of town that are known drinking establishments and nightlife and that sort of thing where there are a lot of people leaving bars or restaurants after consuming lots of alcohol. Just avoid those areas of town also frankly being out late at night or early in the morning creates problems because that’s when the drunk drivers are out. So the less time you can spend say after 11 o’clock at night on the road the better off you are.
Cindy: That makes sense. And if someone is in accident caused by an impaired driver what should their first steps be?
Terry: Well the first thing is make sure that they seek emergency medical treatment if it’s needed just to make sure that they document their injuries and make sure that they don’t need to be hospitalized or some other medical treatment needed. When you’re hit by a drunk driver it’s probably important for you to contact an attorney to make sure that your legal rights are protected so that medical bills could be paid for and you can recover. I just want to impress on the listeners that you can’t fully appreciate the complexity of handling a DWI type of accident or driving while impaired types of accident till you’ve handled a lot of those cases. So I would encourage anyone involved in that sort of tragedy to seek out legal counsel.
Cindy: Great information. Terry, thank you so much for your time today.
Terry: Well, thank you so much for having me.
Cindy: Until next time. This is Cindy Speaker for Texas Law TV.