Complete coverage of the 83rd session of the Texas Legislature.

MADD Bills Push to Curb Drunken Driving, Save Lives

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Mothers Against Drunk Driving is pushing for two bills in Austin that they say can help save lives. (Published Wednesday, Apr 10, 2013)

    Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is struggling to gain support for two bills they say will save lives across the state of Texas.

    One of the bills calls for the state to allow sobriety check points, which are currently not legal in Texas. The second bill would require first-time offenders to install an interlock device on their car that would force the driver to prove sobriety before it allows the engine to start.

    Currently, both proposals are stalled in committee. Meanwhile, well-publicized public displays of forgiveness for public figures seem to be everywhere.

    "Texas is the worst state for the number of [alcohol-related] fatalities in the country.  I'm proud to be a Texan, but this is something not to be proud about in Texas," said Debbie Weir, chief executive officer of MADD.

    In addition to Texas lagging behind statistically, Weir is frustrated by high-profile arrests that are met with a show of support for the suspected drunken drivers.

    "There are ways to support. But that public outpouring of support, that really sends the wrong message; almost like it's really not a big deal," said Weir.

    State Rep. Naomi Gonzalez injured a cyclist while allegedly driving while intoxicated. Police reports indicated her blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit.

    Gonzalez spoke on the floor of the state capitol and apologized for the incident saying, "I made a mistake and I am deeply, deeply sorry for it.  I am sorry for the shame that I have brought upon this house and I have brought upon the district."

    Gonzalez received applause and even high fives following her apology on the floor, which concerned Weir.

    "I think victims, their families, law enforcement officers who are out there keeping our family safe, those are the people who deserve high fives and applause," Weir said.

    Josh Brent, a defensive lineman for the Dallas Cowboys, was received with hugs and handshakes shortly after he was arrested and charged with intoxication manslaughter following a crash that killed teammate Jerry Brown Jr.

    Weir was asked if that kind of thing makes her angry and she paused for a moment before saying, "I get very disappointed.  And angry, yes. I think sometimes MADD has to be M-A-D mad. There are sometimes we have to be M-A-D mad because of the atrocities that still happen every day."

    Atrocities that sometimes lead to sentences as low as two years in jail.  But MADD is not focused on punishment; instead they are focused on prevention and on saving lives.

    Weir said they "look at the research as to what it proven to be an effective deterrent. And I'd say right now, for Texas, these two bills, sobriety checkpoints and interlock for all convicted offenders. And we try to stay focused on the things we know that will work."

    Weir also said what is not working is the legislative process.  This is the fourth time MADD has tried to get these same two bills passed into law.