P.O. Box 12068, State Capitol
Austin, Texas 78711
Tel. (512) 463-0112
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 3, 1997
AUSTIN - Today the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice passed legislation for a Zero Tolerance policy toward juvenile drunk driving. The bill will now be sent to the full Senate for consideration. State Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, is a member of the committee and co-author of Senate Bill 35.
"More people are killed by drunk drivers in Texas than in any other state--1,782 in 1995," Nelson said. "Drunk driving kills. It's that serious. That's the message we need to be sending our young people."
SB 35 would make it a criminal offense for a person under the age of 21 to drive with any measurable blood alcohol content (BAC). Currently, there is no penalty if an underage driver's BAC measures less than 0.07 and a minor is not charged with DWI unless the blood alcohol level is at least 0.10, the same as for an adult.
"Kids aren't even allowed to possess alcohol legally. Driving with any level of blood alcohol should be a punishable offense," Nelson commented.
SB 35 creates a 'driving under the influence' offense for minors with a BAC over 0.00. On a first offense, the offender's driver's license is suspended for 120 days. Additional penalties include 20-40 hours of community service, a mandatory alcohol awareness course, and a fine up to $500.
"A driver's license is the most important thing in an average teenager's life. Threaten to take it away and they'll get the message," Nelson said.
Senator Nelson filed a Zero Tolerance bill in the 1995 legislative session. She expressed confidence that this year's proposal would have the votes to pass the Senate.