2016 A6, 2014 X3, 1967 Bus, 1963 356
While doing some research at the Dallas library for this thread I came across an amusing article from 1987 discussing a newly passed law making it illegal to drink while driving. It's pretty funny to read about people's reluctance to the new law and the gaping loop holes that existed back in the day. :laugh:
TEXAS TRADITION ENDING
Drink-and-drive law called hard to enforce
The Dallas Morning News-August 30, 1987
Readability: 11-12 grade level (Lexile: 1210L)
Author: David Hanners: The Dallas Morning News (DAL) + _____
Ed Watson marveled at the woman's ingenuity.
The lawmaker watched as the woman bought a soft drink and a can of beer, then asked the convenience-store cashier to pour out half the cola and put each can in its own paper bag.
After the woman walked out, Watson, a Democrat who represents the blue-collar Houston suburb of Deer Park in the Texas House, asked the cashier what the woman was up to.
The cola was a decoy, the cashier explained. The woman wanted to drink the beer as she drove, and if a police officer pulled her over, she could hide the beer and produce the half-empty can of cola.
After witnessing the incident earlier this month in Austin, Watson thought the woman was ingenious, though a tad premature; Texas' new law against drinking while driving doesn't go into effect until Monday.
"Before the bill is going into effect, people are already figuring out ways to get around it,' said Watson, who opposed the bill when it was in the Legislature last year.
In a state where some people measure driving distances in beers instead of miles, the longstanding Texas tradition of quaffing a brew on the way home from work or while driving to the lake will become illegal.
The new law makes it a Class C misdemeanor for the driver of a motor vehicle to have an open container of beer, wine or liquor. A violator can be fined up to $200. Passengers are not affected.
Texas is the last of the 50 states to make it illegal for people to drink alcohol while they drive, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in Washington.
Though the new law appears to have wide support -- two-thirds of those surveyed in a Texas Poll earlier this year favored it -- there are critics.
Some opponents, like Watson, complain that the law will be of little use in the war against drunken drivers. And others, including some of the law's proponents, say that compromises made to get it through the Legislature left the law weak and hard to enforce.
Before an officer can stop someone for violating the new law, the officer must see the driver drink from a readily recognizable alcoholic beverage container.
Because drivers can hand their drink to a passenger, pour it into a nondescript cup or cover their drink with wraparound labels that mimic soft drink cans, some officials think violators will be hard to catch.
"It's going to be almost impossible to do,' said Amarillo police Capt. Kenneth Fahnert. "Our package stores sell a little wraparound that says Coca Cola. If they put that around a beer can, you can't stop them for that. It's hard to enforce.'
Fahnert should know. Amarillo is one of a number of Texas cities with an open-container law of its own already on the books. (Although Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox has issued an opinion saying cities don't have the authority to enforce their own drinking-while-driving laws, an attorney general's opinion carries no regulatory weight and several cities went ahead and enforced their ordinances.)
Texas Department of Public Safety officials acknowledge that it may be difficult to enforce the new state law, but they say it is essential if Texas is to get serious about combating drunken driving.
And state troopers will waste no time getting serious. Public Safety Director Leo Gossett says there will be no 90-day grace period in which violators receive only a warning, as happened with the state's mandatory seat belt law a year ago.
Maj. George King, the agency's assistant chief of traffic enforcement, predicted that most Texans will obey the law whether they like it or not.
"I don't think you'll see the passengers abstaining to any great extent, but it's my belief there'll be a large extent of voluntary compliance,' King said.
"When you look at the "Texas tradition,' it's not what some folks make it out to be,' King said. "The majority of Texas citizens are law-abiding.'
In 1986, 3,568 people died in traffic accidents in Texas. Of those, 1,304 deaths -- or 36 percent -- were alcohol-related, according to Department of Public Safety figures.
That number represents a 24 percent increase from alcohol-related traffic fatalities in Texas in 1985, the figures show.
In 1985, the last year for which complete figures are available, Texas had 2.6 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles driven, according to the National Safety Council in Chicago. Twenty states had higher rates.
While 19 states outlaw any open container of alcohol in the passenger compartment of a motor vehicle, Texas and 30 other states prohibit only the driver from having an open container, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The Texas law was sponsored by state Sen. Bill Sarpalius. Open-container legislation has been one of the Canyon Democrat's pet projects; he has sponsored similar measures in each of his four terms in the Senate.
He and others worked to get a tough driving-while-intoxicated law passed by the Legislature in 1983, and when it went into effect a year later, supporters hailed it as one of the toughest DWI laws in the nation.
It wasn't enough, Sarpalius said.
"When we passed the DWI bill, everybody just thought it was great,' he said. "We had DWI reform, a strong DWI law. But I thought Texas would never get serious about drunk driving until we made it illegal to drink and drive.'
Although strongly supported by advocacy groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the compromise drinking-while-driving bill -- a weakened version of the bill Sarpalius had sponsored -- was neither supported nor opposed by the Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas.
MADD lobbyist Milo Kirk said the bill that passed "isn't what we wanted, but it's a step in the right direction.'
"We wanted to ban open alcohol containers in the passenger portion of motor vehicles,' Ms. Kirk said. "This is the only thing that would come out of committee. That doesn't mean this is what we're going to settle for, but we feel it's a step.'
Ms. Kirk and other supporters of the law acknowledge that part of the battle in getting the law accepted is debunking a time-honored Texas stereotype: the beer-swigging driver, best epitomized by Bubba in his pickup truck, tossing the empty cans into the back of the truck as he rumbles down a dusty country road.
Even this century's most famous Texan, President Lyndon B. Johnson, was known to sip a beer or two as he drove reporters around his Hill Country ranch, said Shellynne Eickhoff, an archivist at the LBJ Library in Austin.
Rhon Crawford, chief of police in the far West Texas community of Crane, said he foresees problems enforcing the law in a desolate region of the state where some drivers measure travel in miles per beer.
Examples: McCamey, the nearest town to Crane, is a two-beer drive. Odessa, the nearest big city, is a three-beer drive, Crawford said.
"The good, law-abiding citizens are going to quit doing it, but you're talking about a small amount of people,' Crawford said. "Everybody else is going to keep doing it. They're just going to hide it.'
Rep. Watson said that although he believed something should be done to curb drunken driving, he doesn't believe the new law is the tool. Most drunken drivers, he said, "are already drunk when they get in the car.'
He also questioned whether the law could be enforced. "The policeman has got to see the person take the drink and prove it,' he said. "If they've got passengers in the car, when it gets to court, it's their word against the policeman's.'
In floor debate on the bill, Watson even wondered aloud whether the automobile window-tinting industry was behind the bill, because drivers could get their windows tinted and conceal their drinking.
Others laugh off that suggestion. "We probably tint four to six vehicles a day, and I haven't heard that excuse ever,' said Ray Oatley, owner of Auto Salon in Tyler. "Why go to the expense of getting your windows tinted when you can buy a beer "******' for $2?'
A business that does appear to gain from the new law is the beverage wrapper industry. The wrappers, which fit around cans, often carry labels that, from a distance at least, look like a soft drink.
"I've always handled them as a novelty item, but more and more people come in asking for them,' said Leonard Newman of Foots' Liquor Store in the East Texas town of Coffee City.
"In the past week, I've probably sold over 100 of the wrappers, where before, 100 would've lasted for a year,' Newman said.
Still, Newman and state traffic officials believe most Texans will obey the law. Although Department of Public Safety spokesman Mike Cox said that the agency would have preferred a stronger law, "it's a foot in the door.'
"We think the ideal motorist will obey this law just because it's the law,' Cox said. "On the other hand, the same type of people who get drunk and drive and don't care aren't going to give a second thought as to whether they have a cold beer in their hand when they start the car up.
"But if this bill saves one life,' Cox said, "it'll certainly be worth the effort.'
PHOTO (CreditMN-David Woo) Brian Sticker of Dallas sips a beer while driving his truck in Addison recently. Beginning Monday, drinking alcoholic beverages while driving will be illegal in Texas. ; LOCATION: Alcoholic Drinking.Edition: HOME FINALSection: NEWSPage: 1A
Index Terms: ALCOHOLIC DRINKING
DRINKING WHILE DRIVINGRecord Number: DAL460683Copyright 1987 The Dallas Morning News Company