Impaired Driving or Impaired Lawmaking

Criminal Defense Attorney

The federal government knows what is best for you. Your government tries to control you by legislating penalties for not doing what Big Brother wants you to do. To limit your behavior, your government has levied steep taxes on items such as cigarettes, other tobacco products, even soft drinks. Currently, in Austin, your Texas legislators are trying to pass a law banning all text messaging while driving. And on the national level, the federal government is trying to take away your right to split a bottle of wine at dinner or to have a few beers at the ball game.

For years, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has pushed to lower the legal limit in drunk driving cases to .05. The current level in Texas is .08. If you have seen the movie “Sully,” you know the NTSB as the villains in the film calling for Captain Sullenberger’s head. Okay, that’s Hollywood, but the truth of the matter is that there just aren’t enough plane and train accidents to justify the budget of the NTSB. What does your government do when it tries to justify its existence? Your government uses fear tactics to make itself relevant. Bad things are happening, we must act. Wake up citizen, I’m your government, you need me, listen to me. These tactics are getting tiresome.

In Utah, state legislators are already pushing for the .05 limit. How does that affect us in Montgomery, Walker, Madison, and Leon County, Texas? Because Utah was the first state to lower the legal limit in drunk driving to .08. The old standard was .10. Truth be told, the field sobriety tests that law enforcement uses to arrest you in a DWI stop were based on the old .15 standard. Yep, the standard started at .15 for impairment. But why drop the limit? Simple, taxes. Your government wants more money. The penalties on a first DWI in Texas start at $1000 a year for three years and climb from there. But what say you, groups against drunk driving?

One of the leading advocates against drunk driving is MADD or Mothers Against Drunk Driving. MADD states they are against lowering the legal limit. They were not big fans of decreasing the standard from .10 to .08. Why? MADD says, “running around trying to arrest everyone at .05 is impractical.” The founder Candace Lightner left MADD in 1985. Lightner relates that police and prosecutors she spoke with have conveyed the fact that .05, would be “very hard to prosecute,” for the simple reason most drivers would pass the field sobriety tests. That’s right, they simply are not impaired.

Let’s go back to Texas passing the “Driving While Texting Law” which prohibits texting in a moving vehicle. You can’t prohibit all distracted driving. Why not outlaw putting on makeup or fiddling with the stereo while driving? As I recently heard comedian Daniel Tosh say about illegal texting in an automobile, “You know what’s not illegal? Writing a letter in longhand while driving.” That’s right, you can dip your pen in your inkwell and pen a letter to your grandmother on your steering wheel while driving. Perfectly legal.

So, here’s the problem. Instead of focusing on the heavily intoxicated drivers, who by the way cause the most fatal drunk driving crashes, lawmakers and the NTSB want to penalize responsible adults like you and me who may enjoy one to two drinks with their dinner out at a restaurant. When the legal limit was dropped for .10 to .08 over a decade ago, we were promised that the fatality rate in DWIs would plummet. The truth is, traffic fatalities caused by drunk drivers has remained the same for the past fifteen years. It appears our legislators are the ones with the addiction problem. They are addicted to our money.

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