Everything's bigger in Texas, including the number of DUIs and drunk driving accidents that occur each year. In fact, despite a two-month lockdown in 2020 — when everything in the Lone Star State came to a virtual standstill — the number of drunk-driving-related fatalities actually rose 6.3% in 2020.
Read on to learn the latest about drunk driving statistics and laws in Texas. If you're a state resident, these figures may serve as a cautionary tale, even if your worst problem is how to get a traffic ticket removed from your record.
Texas Drunk Driving Statistics
Because 2020 was such an unusual year for Texas drivers, data from 2019 paints a clearer picture of overall drunk driving trends in the state.
Here are 2019 statistics from the Texas Department of Transportation:
Total number of fatal crashes caused by drunk drivers: 813
Number of fatalities due to drunk driving: 914
Suspected serious crashes where drunk driving played a role: 1,600
Possible injury crashes due to drunk driving: 4,166
Total DUI-related crashes in 2019: 24,714
Just how bad is this, anyhow?
Although Texas DUI arrests actually declined 32% between 2009 and 2019, Texas leads the nation in DUI-related fatalities. The CDC reports that 13,592 Texans died in a DUI-related crash between the years of 2009-2018. In every age group, Texas drivers exceed the national average for alcohol-impaired driving deaths.
DUI Laws in Texas
One reason DUI arrests in Texas may be down is the strictness of DUI laws in the Lone Star State.
According to Texas law, you are legally intoxicated when your blood alcohol level reaches 0.08%. (Incidentally, this is the threshold limit whether you are driving, boating, or flying a small plane.)
Even driving with an open container of alcohol in your vehicle is a Class C misdemeanor.
The penalties for driving under the influence are as follows:
The First Offense
You may receive a fine of up to $2,000.
You could be sentenced to 180 days in jail if you are convicted, and at least three days are mandatory.
You may lose your driver's license for up to one year.
The Second Offense
You may receive a fine of up to $4,000.
You can be sentenced anywhere from one month to a year in jail.
You could lose your driver's license for up to two years.
The Third Offense
You'll have to pay a $10,000 fine.
You may receive a prison sentence of anywhere from two to 10 years.
You will lose your driver's license for up to two years.
In addition to the fines mentioned above, the state of Texas may assess additional financial penalties in the amount of $3,000, $4,500, or $6,000 at the time of sentencing.
If you are caught driving while drunk, and there is a child under the age of 15 riding in the car with you, you will face additional charges and fines, as follows:
You may be charged with child endangerment.
You could be fined up to $10,000.
You could face a jail sentence of up to two years.
You stand to lose your driver's license for an additional 180 days.
The Bottom Line
Although Texas has managed to reduce its total number of DUI arrests, it continues to have some of the highest numbers of DUI-related fatalities in the nation. If you're a Texas resident, buckle up, be safe, and consider taking a defensive driving course to brush up on your driving skills. And by all means — resist the temptation to get behind the wheel after you've been drinking.