New drunk driving law takes effect in Texas

A man see police lights behind him as he drives drunk.

A new law aimed at reducing repeat drunk driving offenses and saving lives on Texas roadways officially goes into effect Tuesday, Sept. 1, just ahead of one of the busiest traffic weekends of the year.

The law, signed by Gov. Greg Abbott on June 19, requires all drunk driving offenders to install an ignition interlock on their vehicles to have their driving privileges restored following an arrest. An IID is similar to a breathalyzer but is connected to a vehicle, requiring that a driver breath into the device prior to engine ignition.

 “Ensuring the safety of those on Texas’ roadways is of utmost importance, which is why I was proud to sign this bill into law,” said Abbott. “The implementation of this law is an important step in creating a safer driving experience for all residents and visitors to the Lone Star State.”

Rep. Jason Villalba, a tireless advocate for passing this new law, according to a Mothers Against Drunk Driving press release, will join MADD’s North Texas walk on Sept. 19 in Dallas.

“I am honored to have been asked to serve as the honorary chair for the 2015 Dallas Walk Like MADD,” Villalba said. “Fatalities caused by drunk driving have claimed the lives of too many Texans, and I am hopeful we will soon see a decrease in incidents and fatalities because of the legislation we passed in the 84th Legislative Session. Together, we will save lives all across Texas.”

Sen. Joan Huffman rallied unanimous support for the bill in the Senate, ensuring it would be sent to the governor’s desk for his signature.

“The law is a common sense measure designed to increase accountability for those convicted of driving while intoxicated,” Huffman said. “The goal is to make our roads safer for everyone.”

Previously, Texas required ignition interlock devices only for repeat offenders and those with a blood alcohol concentration of .15 and above. The new follows the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other traffic safety organizations.

The new law requires the installation of an interlock for first-time offenders with a BAC of .08 or greater if they choose to drive following a DWI arrest during a license suspension. The law allows for drivers arrested for DWI to either apply for an interlock 15 days after arrest or choose not to drive. The interlock-restricted license period is at least 90 days for first-time offenders and 180 days for repeat offenders. Courts can also order an interlock upon conviction per current law. 

Texas is the 25th state to enact this law.