Municipal Traffic Safety Initiatives

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					                                            Municipal Traffic Safety Initiatives
                                       A Project of the Texas Municipal Courts Education Center
                                     (TMCEC) and Texas Municipal Courts Association with funding
                                             from the Texas Department of Transportation

Municipal Courts are the primary venue and bear the greatest responsibility for
adjudicating traffic-related crimes in Texas. In FY04, nearly 5.5 million cases (73.3%) of
all cases adjudicated in Texas municipal courts involved non-parking traffic violations.1

           TOTAL CRIMINAL TRAFFIC SAFETY DISPOSITONS IN TEXAS

           District Courts                             Number                    Percentage of Total
                  Felony DWI                           11,867                          0.14%
           County Courts
                  DWI/DUID                             96,042                             1.21%
           Justice Courts
                  Traffic                              2,048,496                          25.78
           Total                                       2,218,607                          27.13%

           Municipal Courts
           Traffic Only (excluding DUI)                5,728,342                          72.87%

           GRAND TOTAL                                 7,946,949                          100%

    Source: Annual Report of the Texas Judicial System, Fiscal Year 2004


Statistics show that Texas has a distinctly significant traffic safety problem. In 2003,
approximately 1,509 (41%) of fatal crashes in Texas were speed related.2 Such crashes in
Texas constitute 11% of all fatal speed related crashes in the U.S. More Texans are killed
in traffic crashes and alcohol-related crashes3 than any other state.

The decisions made by municipal judges have administrative consequences and impact
procedures in other criminal courts, such as ordering ignition interlock devices in DWI
cases.

                Municipal Judges Role in Magistration and DL Suspensions
Magistrate Function                          Number of Cases
Magistrate Warnings Given in Class A & B     157,694
(includes DWI & reckless driving)
Magistrate Warnings Given in Felonies        77,765
(includes )
Juvenile Warnings                            3,333

1
  Annual Report of the Texas Judicial System, Fiscal Year 2004, Office of Court Administration, Austin,
Texas (Henceforth cited as OCA) at 57.
2
  State Traffic Safety Information, NHTSA, August 2004.
3
  E-Texas: Window on State Government “Save Lives on Texas Roads” (January 2003)
(URL: www.window.state.tx.us/etexas2003/gg25.html)
Search Warrants Issued (include blood                5,937
warrants)
Arrest Warrants Issued
 Class C Misdemeanors                                2,100,392
 Felonies & Class A & B Misdemeanors                 72,228
Other Duties
Safety Responsibility & Driver’s License             1,062
Suspension Hearings Held
Source: Annual Report of the Texas Judicial System, Fiscal Year 2004

To bring traffic safety to the forefront of awareness and implementation by municipal
courts and help them embrace the concept of transforming traffic safety as a local
priority, this three-year approach will be taken to involve Texas municipalities as active
participants in the Texas Highway Safety Plan:

Initiative 1: Building upon the TMCEC network, the grant will provide training and
support materials for a minimum of 1,100 municipal judges via presentations, newsletter
articles and the TMCEC website. Year One will focus on the legislative changes by the
78th Legislature to traffic safety laws, and the new Texas Driver's Responsibility
Program. Specific courses to be offered to municipal judges as part of their mandatory
judicial education are Points: Driver Safety Responsibility Program;
CDL, DSC & Deferred Update; Ethics: Masking and Traffic Safety Issues;
Ignition Interlock Devices; Youthful Drivers; and Transportation Code Update.

A comprehensive traffic safety program must specifically address juvenile drivers and the
underage use of alcohol. Persons of ages 16-20 years have the highest risk of being
killed in a traffic crash of any age group.4 In FY 04, juvenile activity in Texas municipal
courts reached an alarming record high.5 In FY 06 and 07, TMCEC will offer courses
addressing traffic safety issues related to youthful drivers.

                               Juveniles in Municipal Court
Code/Offense                                  Cases Filed in Municipal Courts
Transportation Code                           171,746
Alcoholic Beverage Code (includes DUI)        72,446
DUI Offenses                                  4,100
Source: Annual Report of the Texas Judicial System, Fiscal Year 2004

Initiative II: By subcontracting with a PI&E provider on traffic safety, an educational
campaign for city managers of the 894 Texas cities will emphasize the importance of
traffic safety as a high priority for their cities and the important role of municipal courts.
Most city officials understand very little about municipal courts and fail to appreciate that
more than the imposition of fines is necessary to save lives on Texas roads.

TMCEC welcomes your comments about this new initiative. Please contact Hope
Lochridge, Executive Director, Texas Municipal Courts Education Center, 1609 Shoal
Creek Blvd., Suite 302, Austin, Texas 78701 800.252.3718
4
  U.S. Department of Transportation NHTSA. (2002). Youth fatal crash and alcohol facts: 2000. DOT HS
809 406. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
5
  OCA at 56.