Unfortunately in Texas, drunk driving is just as common as a backyard barbeque or Friday night football game. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, a person is hurt or killed in a crash involving drunk drivers every 20 minutes. Everyone knows that drinking and driving is illegal in Texas, but do you know the difference between driving while impaired versus driving while intoxicated? Both are serious crimes in Texas that can have life-impacting consequences. The state defines intoxication as “having lost the normal use of mental or physical faculties.”
A person is considered legally intoxicated in Texas when their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reaches 0.08 percent. That same person also breaks the law the moment they become impaired in any way by the alcohol or drugs they have ingested and still decide to operate a vehicle. A Texan can be considered impaired while driving, flying, or operating a boat if drugs or alcohol have affected their ability to operate their vehicle safely. This basically means a person does not have to be legally drunk to commit an offense and put others lives’ in danger. If a person is over the age of 21 and police suspect impairment by an intoxicating substance, they can pull a vehicle over and use that as grounds for investigation. Both driving while impaired and driving while intoxicated are treated as serious offenses in Texas and they can lead to deadly car accidents.
DWI versus DUI in Texas
Terms that are often used interchangeably but that are in fact very different are “DWI” and “DUI.” While similar, these acronyms have distinctly different meanings in Texas. DWI stands for “driving while intoxicated” and DUI stands for “driving under the influence.” In Texas, both DWI and DUI refer to a driver operating a vehicle in a public space while intoxicated. An individual who is at least 21 years old can be charged with a DWI if they operate a vehicle while legally intoxicated – when an individual has a BAC of 0.08 percent or greater or a commercial driver has a BAC of 0.04 percent or greater.
Texas has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to individuals under the age of 21 drinking and driving. If a driver is under 21 years of age, it is illegal for them to drive with any detectable amount of alcohol in their system. A driver who is under age 21 operating a vehicle with alcohol in their system can be charged with a DUI. This is the only accurate legal use of the term DUI in Texas.
In Texas, a DWI is considered a more serious crime when compared to a DUI. Only minors under the age of 21 can be charged with DUIs under the Texas Traffic Code. The threshold for charging a minor with a DUI is much lower, as the law only requires a detectable amount of alcohol in their system. The Texas Penal Code defines the penalties for DUI and DWI offenses; DWIs carry more serious consequences, including heavy fines and jail time.
What to Do If You Are Hit by A Drunk Driver
Being hit by an intoxicated driver can be a terrifying and painful experience. The first steps to take after being involved in a car accident are to seek medical attention and call emergency services. If you are able to, you will want to exchange information with the other driver; but, if they appear violent or overly intoxicated, wait for the authorities to arrive and obtain this information from the police report. Make sure to tell the law enforcement officer of any odd behavior, uncontrollable movements, or intoxicated actions the other driver has taken.
Depending on the circumstances, the driver who hit you may be facing criminal charges. Criminal charges cannot compensate victims and therefore, a drunk driver being charged does not prevent you from pursuing a civil lawsuit for financial compensation against the driver that caused your injuries. The intoxicated or impaired driver may be penalized criminally; unfortunately, however, this will not include compensation for your injuries. You must contact a personal injury lawyer once you are able to after the car accident so they can file a civil suit against the reckless drunk driver that caused your crash. Having an experienced trial attorney on your side will ensure the drunk driver is held financially accountable for your medical treatment, damage to your car, any income lost, pain and suffering, and other damages sustained as a result of the accident.
Texas Drunk Driving Accident Attorneys
Houston is a large city that is known to have many drunk drivers. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a drunk driving accident, you have limited time to bring a claim against the drunk driver who hit you. You have rights and deserve fair compensation for your damages. Contact us today for a free consultation.