Defensive driving is a must in Texas, just as it is in other states. But some families are finding that the law could do a bit more to keep potentially dangerous offenders off the road as well.
That's the case for Abdallah Khader, a three-year-old from Arlington who is now in a persistent vegetative state thanks to an accident caused by a repeat DWI offender. His parents are calling for changes to be made to driving while intoxicated laws to account for both out-of-state convictions and to increase the penalties for recidivism.
Stewart Richardson is the man accused of causing Khader's injuries, and police records show that he had already been convicted seven times of drunk driving offenses, although they were in other states.
"A person with seven DWIs before, I thought it was obvious to put this man in jail for life," Loubna Elharazin, Abdallah's mother, told WFAA-TV. She now has local state representative Chris Turner in her corner to protest the laws.
As it currently stands, the longest sentence that Texas prosecutors could seek would be for 20 years due to the fact that current laws do not account for crimes in other states. Turner has said that he wants to pen a bill that would allow out-of-state convictions to be used as evidence in Texas court sentencing.
The tragedy is compounded by evidence that the Texas prison system lacks the funds to provide adequate alcohol counseling to those sentenced to serve time. It has been pointed to as one reason why John Patrick Barton, thrice convicted in the state, chose to drink and drive while on parole. He struck a car in Lewisville, police said, killing a mother and child and injuring two others.
Prevention can help to limit these offenses, but so too can online Texas defensive driving
courses that help motorists find ways to avoid dangerous situations like those involving drivers who are intoxicated. It can also be one way for those convicted of DWI offenses to find other options rather than committing the same mistakes, with sometimes catastrophic results.
Those catastrophic results, as in the Richardson and Barton cases, might allow prosecutors to add on prison time in addition to the state mandates for driving while intoxicated. Representative Turner has said that Abdallah's Law, the bill he is proposing, would include provisions to increase sentencing based on the severity of injuries caused by the intoxicated drivers' choices.Defensive driving courses
may also soon focus on the potential to lose one's license after two DWI convictions. In response to the tragedy allegedly attributed to Barton, State Senator Jane Nelson is proposing a "two strikes and you're out law" as she told the Dallas Morning News.
It is likely that the bill could be combined with Turner's, as both call for increased penalties for drivers whose actions lead to the serious injuries of others while intoxicated. Nelson would change the sentencing guidelines so that aggravated injuries would lead to a felony DWI conviction, with prison time of between five and 99 years depending on the severity.