Delaughter: Harris County, Texas has some of the highest DWI fatality rates in the country. What’s the story behind those numbers, and basically why does it happen so much here in the Houston area?
Samuels: It’s really not unusual that it has a high number of DUI fatalities because it is so large and heavily populated. And there’s a lot more to do in Houston, than maybe like Beaumont or Huntsville. And so there are a lot of places where as a liquor store may close at 9:00 p.m. in Huntsville and there’s nothing else to do. [In Houston] there are bars, there are clubs, there are places that will continue to serve you alcohol until 2:00 a.m. and actually that’s the deadliest hour of the day for DUI’s.
Delaughter: Why do people get behind the wheel when they’re impaired? They know what the law says, they know what the consequences are, but people do it anyway. Why do they do it?
Samuels: You know there are several reasons that we hear. A lot of it is, they feel they can do it. I really don’t think that people arrested for DUI, that’s their first time driving drunk. It may be the first time that they’re getting caught. So it’s something that they’ve done before, that they’ve gotten away with, and they continue to do it until the consequences actually catch up with them.
Delaughter: If that is something you talk about all the time is drunk driving, buzz driving- I mean basically how drunk is “drunk.”
Samuels: Well, .08 of course is the legal limit for blood alcohol content but you certainly can be arrested for less. That is up to law enforcement. And you can exhibit signs of drunken behavior under .08.
Delaughter: As for the cost to the individual, there was a time when a first-offense DWI may not have been that big of a deal. But now if you’re busted for driving drunk, and it’s your first offense, you’re going to get hauled in, and it’s going to cost a lot of money. What are the costs of even a first-offense DWI, if it’s never happened before?
Samuels: The first offense can cost you up to $17,000. And it’s something that we like to drive home because first of all, thank goodness, if you’re involved in something like that, you’re still alive to face the $17,000 and you haven’t killed anyone. You’re going to pay court costs, you’re going to pay towing fees. If your car is wrecked, insurance will have to kick in. You’re going to miss work because you’re going to be in court. There are a lot of different things that come into play. I certainly don’t have $17,000 to spend just because I got behind the wheel after drinking.
Delaughter: How are we starting to see attitudes change when it comes to driving drunk, and someone who’s been drinking at your home or your place of business, basically how that’s handled?
Samuels: I think that it’s no longer cool to be drunk or buzzed, because there are so many instances where people get behind the wheel, and while they may not be injured, they’re killing or seriously injuring someone else. There are so many other avenues they can take to get home. You can take a cab, you can ride a bus, you can sleep it off where you are. The actual message behind Summer P.A.S.S., which is what we’re promoting, is to have a person appointed to stay sober. So before you even go out, make that decision to have someone who is going to not drink. And the person appointed to stay sober is not the person who has had the least amount of drinks. The person appointed to stay sober is someone who is [drinking] water, Coke, anything that’s not an alcoholic beverage.