MADD pushes for checkpoints, interlocks
Posted on February 12, 2013 at 7:23 PM
Updated Tuesday, Feb 12 at 7:50 PM
AUSTIN -- Their walk through the Texas State Capitol is just the latest part of a long and difficult journey that for each began with tragedy.
"My son was killed by a drunk driver. He was walking on the side of the road, and this man just struck him," said mother Sally Tegel from San Antonio.
Originally from California, Tegel recalls the moment clearly. Her 16-year-old son Joshua lost his life at 8:03 p.m. Saturday, November 17, 2012.
"You don't know it's not going to happen to you," Tegel said tearfully. "It could be your grandson, your niece, nephew. It could happen to anybody. I never thought it was going to happen to me. Everything was going great."
"I'm in the anger stage," said Gladys Ybarra of Kerrville, who lost her son to a drunk driver on Christmas Eve.
Ybarra hopes to convince lawmakers and lay citizens alike that more can be done to prevent deaths at the hands of intoxicated motorists.
"When they get behind the wheel, they don't have any idea. There's nothing going through their mind," she said.
"Know that there are families out there that they can destroy, like my son," said Ybarra. "He had a three-year-old that he was raising alone and now this son is basically orphaned. And there are parents out there that have young children that they're still raising."
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) met with lawmakers Tuesday to pursue two goals: A law allowing statewide sobriety checkpoints and one that would require ignition interlock devices installed on the vehicles of all first-time drunk driving offenders.
"We hear it all the time, this is the umpteenth time that somebody's been stopped and they're still on the road again," said State Rep. Bill Callegari (R-Katy), who authored HB 260 requiring interlock devices for first-time offenders after a friend and constituent lost their son to a drunk driver.
"If they're drunk, they shouldn't be driving. Period," Callegari said.
"It would hopefully make those aware that if they have to have an ignition interlock, they would recognize that there's a problem and they shouldn't be driving, and maybe induce them even when they get past that point to be more careful about getting in a car and driving if they're not capable," Callegari said.
Barbara Macias of El Paso lost her husband in 2005 to an intoxicated driver three times over the legal limit. Macias said the 31-year-old motorist had driven drunk multiple times before.
"It basically tore our life apart," said Macias. "I think if this law would have been in effect, it probably would have made a difference because a person has to blow into the ignition in order for them to drive the car. If he would have been drunk, that wouldn't have happened. He wouldn't have been able to start the car."
"I think there is a gap of some type," said Callegari. "This is one of the ways to maybe close that gap, is to make sure those people who have been convicted, even if it's the first time, that they do have a way to keep them out of the driver's seat."
Though it hasn't been filed yet, a sobriety checkpoint bill could originate in the Texas Senate, but some have questioned whether it could amount to unconstitutional search and seizure.
Public Policy Liaison Bill Lewis with MADD of Texas points out the U.S. Supreme Court has already found such checkpoints are legal.
"That's why some 38, 39 other states in the country do run sobriety checkpoints," said Lewis. "Texas is in the minority that does not, and possibly that is one of the reasons why Texas is the worst state in the nation for drunk driving. We kill more people in Texas in drunk driving crashes than any other state in the nation, including California."
According to the most recent data available from the Texas Department of Transportation, alcohol was involved in the deaths of 1,039 of the 2,751 Texans killed on the roads in 2011. Statistics from MADD indicate Texas saw 1,213 driving under the influence (DUI) fatalities in 2010, compared to 774 in California.
"People will modify their behavior. They will have less to drink or they'll find a designated driver if they think they'll have to go through a checkpoint," said Lewis, who concedes that previous efforts in support of checkpoints at the local and state level have been unsuccessful.
"I would be less than honest with you if I told you that we thought we had a good chance that this bill will pass. I don't know that it will, but we're kind of down to this," said Lewis. "We're talking about life, death and permanent disability, so it's very important to us. We know what the answer is if we don't ask."
Meanwhile mothers hope to turn their loss into lessons.
"I hope it makes a difference," said Tegel. "I hope I can change their minds. Realize that lives are being taken, and we need these drunk drivers to stop because lives are being lost."