AUSTIN — Spring – March 1st through May 31st – marks the most dangerous season on Texas roadways for alcohol-related traffic crashes. That's why the Texas Department of Transportation is reminding motorists to line up a P.A.S.S. – a Person Appointed to Stay Sober – because even "buzzed" driving is drunk driving.
In 2011, spring accounted for 26 percent of all alcohol-related traffic crashes in Texas, according to TxDOT, more than any other season. At the same time, weekends continue to claim too many lives – more than half (58 percent) of all alcohol-related crashes occurred on a weekend in 2011. With spring break and holiday weekends approaching, TxDOT wants motorists to know that consuming just a few drinks can still impair a person's ability to drive, and it has launched a public safety campaign to let them know of the effect alcohol has on driving.
State law makes it illegal for someone with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher to drive a vehicle. However, drivers can be arrested with a BAC below .08 when a law enforcement officer has probable cause, based on the driver's behavior.
"People often don't recognize the impact that one or two drinks can have on their ability to operate a vehicle," said John Barton, TxDOT's deputy executive director. "Alcohol slows your reaction time, reduces your ability to properly gauge speed or distance from other objects and makes it difficult for you to focus on the road. It takes less alcohol than you think so don't take a chance. Always plan ahead for a sober ride home."
People tend to underestimate their BAC when drinking alcohol, according to a study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. As a result, they may think they are still OK to drive because they have only consumed a couple of drinks, when in fact, they may be impaired.
TxDOT will be traveling in March to entertainment districts and college campuses throughout the state to remind motorists that "buzzed driving is drunk driving" and to always line up a P.A.S.S. – every weekend, every season. Events in the entertainment districts will conduct hands-on demonstrations that illustrate how consuming alcohol can impair one's ability to drive, while at college campuses students will see what it's like behind bars through an interactive backdrop display. Students will be able to share their photos and encourage friends to plan ahead for a P.A.S.S. The college tour will also screen the premiere of TxDOT's new informational video that features Texans recounting their personal, real-life stories of the terrible consequences of being charged with a DWI.
Also TxDOT is encouraging people to plan ahead if they are going out for drinks. The agency is recommending a website – soberrides.org – to help people find safe rides home.