Liquor laws are notoriously complicated in Texas. From county to county, liquor laws fluctuate between dry and wet. Some areas are partially dry, allowing for only certain types of alcohol sales. Since Lubbock went from dry to wet over a decade ago, the correlation between alcohol accessibility and drunk driving accidents can be examined.
Why Are Texas Liquor Laws Confusing?
When it comes to alcohol, the state of Texas has a complicated hodgepodge of laws. The Lone Star state is one of the few that still retain limits on alcohol sales on certain days. Commonly referred to as “blue laws,” liquor regulation has been a major part of Texan history.
What Are “Blue” Laws?
After Texas became independent of Mexico, the Puritan ideology influenced many laws in the early 1800s. Life was centered around the church and making sure people had no distractions, especially alcohol. For example, laws were put into place that prohibited alcohol from being sold on Sundays.
Historians debate whether the “blue” term came from the color of the paper used to draw up the laws or if it is a derogatory reference to the Puritan belief system. Historians agree, however, that the government created several laws to curb drinking, gambling, and working on Sundays.
Today, most counties with blue laws still on the books seek to limit the number of drunk driving accidents. As Texas liquor laws evolve, the state’s many counties can be dry, wet, or a little bit of both.
What is a Dry County?
A dry county refers to the prohibition of alcohol within that jurisdiction. All sales of alcohol are banned, including in restaurants and stores. Nearly all dry counties can be found in the south.
Before federal prohibition, a large portion of America banned alcohol sales. Now, more than 200 counties remain dry. In Texas, there are five remaining dry counties. The rest of the state is either wet or partially dry.
What is a Wet County?
A wet county allows the sale of alcohol. Residents may purchase alcohol at the grocery store, liquor store, or in a restaurant without worrying about the day of the week. In Texas, 55 counties are considered wet.
How Do Partially Dry Counties Work?
Texas has 196 partially dry counties, including Lubbock County. Partially dry counties allow some alcohol sales but limit them in some way. For example, some counties may set the following restrictions:
- Only 4% beer is legal
- Only alcoholic beverages containing 14% or less alcohol are legal
- Distilled spirits are legal
These limits are not set in stone. The sale of mixed beverages can be legal in all or only part of a county. For example, while the county of Lubbock was partially dry, the city itself was completely dry.
How Drunk Driving Accidents Affect Liquor Laws
Texas has many supporters of restrictive liquor laws. The idea rests on the notion that if alcohol is not readily available, there will be fewer drunk driving accidents.
Over the years, Texas has continually ranked high for drunk driving. According to a recent article, Texas is the fifth worst drunk driving state in the country. Texas has received a DUI severity score of 64.4 out of 100. A DUI severity score is based on the following statistics:
- Total alcohol-related traffic fatalities
- DUI arrest rate
- DUI/DWI fatality rate
- Percentage of DUI deaths
In the last reporting year, DUI fatalities increased 12.2% while our state maintained the lowest DUI arrest rate. Texas counties, including Lubbock, are greatly influenced by drunk driving accidents.
How Lubbock Liquor Laws Work
For many years, Lubbock remained the largest dry city in Texas. Prior to 2009, residents could not buy alcohol in a restaurant, liquor store, or anywhere within the city limits. In contrast, Lubbock County allowed eating establishments to serve beer and wine. An adult could enjoy wine with dinner out but had to drive outside of the county to buy wine for home use.
Major Change to Lubbock Liquor Laws
In 2009, the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce led the effort to change the law. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) began issuing liquor store permits in the city of Lubbock. In addition, alcohol by the drink was legalized countywide.
Since then, getting a drink has been easier throughout Lubbock County. According to reports, the number of drinkers has not increased in the county.
How Lubbock Drunk Driving Accidents and Arrests Have Been Affected
An article reflected on the 10th anniversary of the county becoming wet and how drunk driving accidents in Lubbock have been affected. Unfortunately, residents are split on whether the liquor laws have had a positive or negative effect on drunk driving.
According to law enforcement, alcohol-related arrests have decreased in the last decade. Others claim the law change has had no effect on arrests or drunk driving accidents. The Lubbock Police Department released the following information:
- Prior to the county becoming wet, there was an average of 764 DWI arrests per year
- In the years since there have been an average of 579 DWI arrests per year
- When the county was dry, there was an average of 394 drunk driving accidents per year
- Since becoming a wet county, there have been an average of 371 Lubbock drunk driving accidents per year
In addition, the population of Lubbock has increased by 25,000. All the factors point to a decrease of drunk driving incidents since the county changed its liquor laws.
Do Dry Counties Have More Drunk Driving Accidents?
While the decrease in Lubbock drunk driving accidents seems counterintuitive in a newly wet county, the statistics seem to reflect the same outcome in other areas.
A study analyzed data in dry and wet counties throughout the country. According to its findings, dry counties seemed to have more drunk driving accidents than wet counties.
Comparing Drunk Driving Accidents in Wet and Dry Counties
Arkansas, Kentucky, and Texas all report more fatal DWI accidents in jurisdictions that prohibit alcohol sales. The Lone Star State is unique. As one of the biggest states in the nation, it makes sense that we would have more alcohol-related traffic accidents than other areas of the country.
However, a quick comparison to California puts Texas drunk driving accidents in perspective. California has a larger population. In addition, its motorists drive more miles than any other state. Nevertheless, California has fewer drunk driving fatalities than Texas.
Data collected over the last five years show that Texas dry counties have 3.5 times the number of fatal drunk driving accidents in wet counties. According to the research:
- Dry counties have an average of 6.8 fatal drunk driving incidents
- Wet counties have an average of 1.9 alcohol-related traffic deaths
Despite the good intentions of dry counties, prohibiting the sale of alcohol only increased drunk driving accidents.
Why Are There More Fatal Drunk Driving Accidents in Dry Counties?
The article explores various theories for the increase in drunk driving accidents in dry counties. For example, some believe that dry county residents travel much further to consume alcohol in a wet county. This can lead to more drunk drivers on the road for longer periods of time.
From a psychological perspective, residents may feel compelled to drink more alcohol when it is forbidden. Numerous studies have explored the idea that humans are more attracted to things that are banned.
The Forbidden Fruit Hypothesis is derived from the story of Adam, Eve, and the apple. While Eve was forbidden from eating the fruit, she felt compelled to eat it anyway. For dry counties, alcohol is the new apple.
There seems to be a direct correlation between liquor laws and drunk driving accidents in Lubbock. Statewide, Texas is seeing an increase in alcohol-related traffic collisions. However, since becoming a wet city, Lubbock has experienced a steady decline in fatal impaired driving crashes.
While fewer deaths on the road is a welcomed change, Lubbock drunk driving accidents are still prevalent. Liggett Law Group has years of experience helping people recover the compensation they deserve after all types of car accidents. Schedule a free and confidential consultation with our Lubbock drunk driving accident lawyer today.