Some people may think that fatal DUI accidents only occur during the times of day when people are most likely to be at a bar--late evening through early morning, after one work day ends and before the next begins.
It's true that drunken collisions notably increase during this period, but it's worth remembering that almost any time of any day has its share. This came to mind when I read about a Texas DUI crash just after the new year.
Here's What Happened.
Officials with the Arlington Police Department reported that local man Richard Spencer was killed in an accident on January 10.
At approximately 8:00 p.m., 58-year-old Spencer exited his vehicle on the shoulder of US Highway 287 near Little Road. The police report indicates his tire was flat and Spencer had pulled over to change it.
As he opened his trunk to retrieve a spare tire, a southbound vehicle swerved out of its lane and crashed into him. He was killed by the impact; his wife, whom he had told to get out of the car and wait a few steps away from it, was not injured by the collision of the two cars.
The driver of the second vehicle, 26-year-old Marcus Williams, was reported by witnesses as "weaving in and out of traffic" prior to the collision. He was injured in the crash and was taken to a nearby hospital. During his treatment police charged him with intoxication manslaughter.
DUI Crashes Happen 24/7
8:00 p.m. on a Wednesday may seem like an odd time to be drunk, but it's not really that unusual. "Peak" drinking hours are usually 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. most nights (and essentially all of Saturday), but that only accounts for 54 of the 168 total hours in a week. What about the rest?
Take a look at this chart published by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT):
These are 2016's DUI crash numbers broken down into the day of the week and the time of day that they were reported. Highlighted in red is the window of "prime time" drinking crashes, where the numbers are notably higher than the rest of the week.
Even with the times of greatest risk highlighted, it's clear that no given hour is entirely void of crashes. The accident in Arlington happened around 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday evening; while that time of the day and week doesn't put up the biggest numbers on the grid, it still reflects a DUI fatality every ten minutes during that hour in the Lone Star State. The DFW area is crowded with bars and restaurants that want business on Hump Day, and offering customers cheap drinks in large quantities is a good way to get it.
Like any other business, bars and restaurants need to fill their open hours--even the off-peak ones--with customers. To accomplish this they offer drink specials, live music, and unique activities like bingo or karaoke to attract customers during weekday afternoons and evenings. They're effective lures to bring in people who might not otherwise drink on weekdays, but in some cases they're not even necessary: Some folks go straight to their neighborhood watering holes after work to "take the edge off" a long day of crunching numbers, folding clothes, pouring concrete, or
writing for a law blog whatever their jobs might entail.
Evenings and weekends are still the most likely times to be involved in drunk driving accidents, but they're not the only ones. Of the estimated 884 fatal DUI crashes per week in 2016, over half (517, or 58.4%) of them happened during the 54 hours highlighted in red above. Even with the lion's share claimed by evenings and weekends, though, that's still hundreds of deaths scattered through the remainder of the week--and let's not overlook the thousands of non-fatal crashes all over the state during those same timeframes.
It's easy to think that drunk driving is restricted to only the very late and very early hours of most days (except Saturday, when all bets are apparently off). It makes sense in a way; spending a few hours at a bar and heading home between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. is something many adults do occasionally. A key difference lies in how we cope with having a little too much to drink: Responsible, law-abiding adults call a friend, a cab, or an Uber to go home, while the chart seems to indicate that tens of thousands of Texans tempt fate by making far more dangerous choices.
Some establishments are happy to accommodate those bad decisions by funneling alcohol into customers until their money runs out, which is why Texas dram shop law is so important. People hurt at any hour of any day by a drunk driver have legal recourse not only against the intoxicated driver who injured them directly, but also in many cases against the bar that had no qualms about over-serving him. People with truly alarming blood-alcohol levels stumble out to their cars in broad daylight and take to the streets; whatever their motives may be for partying hard while the sun is high in the sky, it's still illegal for the bars to help them put others at risk.
I feel as though the "morals" of many of the things I write about drunk driving are similar to one another, so I hope you'll forgive me for repeating myself: Please make good choices on the road. Humanity went to the trouble of developing amazing technology to help us all to reach our destinations quickly and comfortably; the least we can do is not find ways to impede one another's comfort and convenience, much less endanger one another's lives. One of the ways we can preserve one another's safety is by never driving while intoxicated.
That doesn't mean you can't drink prudently--the legal maximum BAC is .08 and not .00--but know your limits and stop well short of them.