DWI will cost you more than a mug shot


Special to The Prospector/Design by Jacobo De La Rosa

Christian Vasquez, The Prospector

Memorial Day, May 30, started off what the American Automobile Association calls the “100 deadliest days for teens,” which refers to the fact that approximately 1,022 teens will die during this time period.

During these upcoming 100 days 59 percent of the accidents teens will be involved in will be caused by distracting behavior six seconds before the crash. General cell phone use accounted for 12 percent of crashes and interacting with a passenger made up 15 percent.

“Every day during the summer driving season, an average of 10 people die as a result of injuries from a crash involving a teen driver” said Jurek Grabowski, research director for the AAA Foundation in a article released by the AAA regarding the study.

The study that discovered this trend combined data from a previous study that  ultimately included 2,229 crashes with teen drivers spanning from August 2007 to April 2015.

According to the Texas Department of Transportation, 76 teen drivers died due to alcohol-related accidents in 2015 in Texas. Of course, these types of accidents are not limited to teen drivers. In the same year, 192 drivers between the ages of 21-24 died as a result of alcohol in Texas.

These statistics, scary as they may be, do not tell the entire story. With headlines normally focused on fatal accidents, it is easy to forget that most car crashes do not result in a fatality.

The Texas Department of Transportation reports that in 2015 only 57 out of the 18,521 crashes in El Paso County ended with one or more fatalities. There were 62 fatalities in total due to car accidents and 2,537 injuries ranging from minor cuts and bruises to debilitating injuries.

The dangers of distracted or drunk driving are not limited to physical injuries either. In Texas, driving while talking on a cell phone can result in a fine  anywhere from $200 to $500. Driving under the influence (DUI) and Driving while intoxicated (DWI) can have more extreme consequences.

In Texas you can get a DUI if you are under 21 and have any amount of alcohol in your system while driving.  The punishment can include a fine of up to $500, a 60 day license suspension, 20-40 hours of community service and mandatory alcohol awareness classes. If you are caught with a .08 level of alcohol in your blood or higher the punishment increases to up to $2,000 dollar fine, three-180 days in jail, and 90 days to a year license suspension. Each time you are caught the consequences are raised.

Getting a DWI means that you are 21 or older  with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher or if you are under 21 and have a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher, or are on another illegal drug. For a first-time offender the fine can be up to $2,000, two-180 days in jail, the loss of one’s license up to a year, and an annual fee of $1-2,000 for three years to keep your license. Similarity to a DUI, each sequential arrest increases the fine and punishment.

A junior mechanical engineering student who wished to remain anonymous talked about the experience of getting caught driving while drunk.

“I wasn’t driving sloppy or speeding, the reason I was pulled over was because the taillight was out from the back of the car,” the student said. “When he pulled me over he told me that violation and as soon as I put the window down he smelled the alcohol.”

The officer decided to let him off easy and he received a DUI citation, which enabled him to hire a lawyer to attempt to remove the citation from his record. The officer could have just as easily arrested him or made him take a breathalyzer test, which could have led to much harsher consequences.

“It was not worth it. It was a regular weekend—it wasn’t even worth going out or anything,” the student said. “I just imagined my parents like if they were going to find out, how disappointed they would be and also school, how it would effect me and my career as well. Everything was flashing before my eyes.”

When it comes to the effects and consequences of a DUI or DWI, they can be serious and far-reaching for a student.

“A DUI/DWI not only impacts a student, but also his/her family and loved ones,” said Catie McCorry-Andalis,  associate vice president and dean of students in an email. “Particularly when it comes to finances, mandated court appearances, community service and/or in-patient or out-patient care if appropriate.”

Another UTEP student, a junior business administration major who also wished to remain anonymous, explained the impacts after he was arrested for a DWI. This person was drinking while underage, but because of a blood alcohol concentration of .15, the charge was raised from a DUI to a DWI.

“A buddy of mine came in from out of town. We went out drinking to the Black Market, nothing was open. I thought I was fine, honestly, I thought it was ok to drive,” The student said. “So what had happened was I looked at my phone, and I was trying to change a song and when I did that I swerved in the next lane a little bit, but I caught myself and I went back in. Not even 20 seconds later lights come on and I was pulled over.”

A failed sobriety test resulted in the student  being promptly arrested. This person spent the next four months trying to get the DWI removed from their record and taking mandatory classes. A monthly check in for six months to confirm sobriety and approximately $2,000 were some of the consequences.

“Honestly you feel like a huge loser and you feel like a huge disappointment to everyone in your life,” the student said. “You’re locked in a cell with people you don’t feel like you should be associating yourself with.”

Paying fines and risking future employment are great practical deterrents to drinking and driving, but they are self-serving reasons to not drink and drive.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 percent of all deaths of children under the age of 14 were due to alcohol-related crashes. The individual might put their future at risk in choosing to drive drunk, but they are simultaneously putting the future of others around them at a greater risk.

“One of the biggest things that scares me is what if I black out and I drive home and I kill someone? That’s 20 years of my life gone right there,” the business administration major said. “That’s someone else’s life that I took away because I was selfish and went out drinking and I didn’t think about driving.”

The availability of mobile apps has made it easier to avoid drinking and driving.

Uber and AndaleRide are two apps available for both iPhones and Androids that provide transportation services to anyone with a smartphone. It’s also easy to call a friend or a parent to come pick you up, and one that can save you or someone else sharing the road with you.

If you are having problems with alcohol use, UTEP provides different programs to encourage recovery.

“The University Counseling Center offers support for those struggling with alcohol abuse as well as those who have friends and family members affected by alcohol use, which includes the facilitation of Alcohol Anonymous meetings, workshops and materials such as “Avoiding Relapse,” McCorry Andalis said.

The counseling center is located at 202 Union West and may be reached at 915-747-5302.

Christian Vasquez may be reached at [email protected]