Weekend traffic deaths raise concerns about drunken driving

DA, MADD calling for tougher punishment laws

SAN ANTONIO – In the wake of a recent wave of traffic deaths that are suspected of being caused by drunken drivers, the call for stronger punishment for driving drunk has been renewed.

"As a community, we should be outraged by what is happening on our roadways," said Gloria Vasquez, executive director of the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

She said that Texas leads the nation in the number of drunken-driving deaths and Bexar County is the third-deadliest in the state.

"We need to get our legislators involved and take a stronger position on what we're doing," Vasquez said.

She praised legislators for passing a bill during the last legislative session making ignition interlock mandatory for first time DWI offenders but said that more must be done. Topping the list, she said, is passing laws providing tougher sentences.

Bexar County District Attorney Nicholas "Nico" LaHood agrees.

"We're limited by the statute that has a punishment range of from 2 to 20 years in prison," LaHood said.

He said that prosecuting intoxication manslaughter cases is challenging since proving intent –- that a person intended to drive drunk and kill someone -– is difficult.

A loss, LaHood said, that should dictate a tough sentence.

"We're usually not dealing with intent as a state of mind, per se, but it is still reckless behavior and the loss is still the same," LaHood said.

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