“Ethan Couch Law” Needs To Be Enacted By Texas Legislature

Getting Drunk Teen Drivers Off the Road Would Save Hundreds Of Lives In Texas Each Year

On June 15, 2013, Tarrant County teen Ethan Couch caused a horrific automobile collision that killed four people and critically injured another teen. The car crash made national news because of the unusual defense used at trial that Ethan suffered from “affluenza” — a made-up condition in which financial privilege hinders a person’s ability to understand the consequences of acting recklessly — and the probated sentence Ethan received on his intoxication manslaughter conviction. More details are here.

I represented Sergio in a lawsuit to hold Ethan and his parents accountable for the injuries Ethan caused by his reckless conduct. Although we successfully obtained a substantial settlement, no amount of money could ever repair the damage or repay the losses Sergio and his family have suffered. I wish instead that we could rewind the clock and the crash would never have happened in the first place. I know that this is not possible. But preventing another tragedy like this is possible through enhanced laws.

Vehicle Collisions Are The Leading Cause of Death For Teens 
Car and truck wrecks already take the lives of more of our teens than any other cause — and, not surprisingly, drunk driving is the leading causes of those crashes.  A shocking one-fourth of crashes by drivers from 16 to 20 involve a drunk driver.In Texas last year This represents almost 10% of all fatalities suffered by drivers who were DWI were in this age bracket — 157 teens out of the total of 1,665 people who died in crashes involving alcohol. And this doesn’t count the people who died in collisions when the drunk teen was driving, as in the Couch case.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) estimates that,
per mile driven, teens are involved in accidents three times more often than drivers who are age 20 and older. IIHS explains that immaturity
often leads teens to speed and engage in other risky behavior and that
inexperience means teens often fail to recognize dangers or to respond

Add alcohol to this scenario and teens are in a deadly situation. Although less likely to drink and drive, when they do, the risks are much higher because of their inexperience and immaturity.

The Ethan Couch Law Would Appropriately Penalize Teens for DWI


This law would help get teen drivers who violate drinking and driving laws off the road. Currently Texas’s Zero Tolerance Law
makes it illegal for drivers under 21 to have any detectable alcohol in their system. Punishments include 60-day driver’s license suspension
for a first offense, 120 days for a second offense and 180 days for a
third offense. here should be no opportunity for a second of a third
offense. The law as it stands causes a minor hiccup in the teen’s
driving privileges and thereby sends the message that there is little consequence for a DUI — the same message sent to Ethan.

While they are at it, the Legislature should cut the permissible blood alcohol content to .05%. Many states and countries have an even lower level — some have a zero percent law. More reasons for lowering the limit are here.

We Need To Crack Down

Ethan was let off easy. Our judicial system taught him that
his actions have few personal consequences. This is the wrong message to send to him — and to other teen drivers. By creating real consequences,
we can get dangerous drivers off the road and teach a lifelong lesson
that drinking and driving is not worth it.

Berenson Law Firm supports an Ethan Couch Law that would stiffen the penalties under the Zero Tolerance Law. The Legislature begins its bi-annual session on January 13, 2015. Contact your state representative and demand that he or she help make our roads safer by passing these badly needed laws.

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