Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

July 5, 2013

Area authorities watching for drunk drivers during holiday weekend

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — Plan to drink during the holiday weekend? Authorities are making an offer you literally can't refuse: Don't drive.

And why? Well, while the July 4 holiday weekend certainly is a patriotic hallmark, it is also one of the deadliest holidays of the year because of alcohol-impaired-driving crashes, officials contend.

So much so, in fact, that representatives of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service “Watch UR BAC” program strongly suggest anyone who plans to drink during this period get a ride home from someone who plans to remain sober.

As part of this, authorities throughout the state will be out and about and vigorously patrolling during this holiday period. There certainly will be roving and saturation patrols.

A big component of this effort is the “No Refusal” initiative, which legally requires a suspected DWI driver to provide a breath or blood sample to police.

Drivers who refuse requests for a sample, incidentally, can legally be taken to jail or a hospital and literally compelled to provide one.

As part of the state vigilance, the Texas Department of Public Safety plans to increase DWI patrols during the entire 10-day period that surrounds July 4.

Through July 7, DPS troopers will focus patrols on high-risk locations at times when alcohol-related crashes have been calculated to be most frequent, according to reports.

Recent statistics from the Texas Department of Transportation indicate the need for such a crackdown. According to reports, there were, in 2012,  1,099 fatalities in Texas involving drivers who were legally drunk at the time of the crash — having a blood alcohol concentration of .08 grams per deciliter or higher.

Twenty-six alcohol-related deaths took place in the Lone Star State during the of July holiday period last year, reports show.

Nighttime is particularly dangerous for drivers during the a celebratory holiday period such as July 4, officials said. But Cherokee County AgriLife Extension Agents have cautioned that death is not the only consequence from impaired driving.

“Often, people have a hard time recuperating financially from the cost of an arrest or the crash itself,” officials have noted in recent news releases.

DPS Director Steven McCraw emphasized that while July 4 is certainly a time of celebration in America, all Texans are encourage to enjoy the holiday responsibly.

“Impaired driving can quickly turn a time of celebration into a tragedy, so Texans should designate a sober driver or secure another form of transportation if they plan to drink alcohol,” McCraw stated. “Our troopers will also be doing their part during the holiday by increasing their patrols to keep our roadways safe.”

The increased patrols that target impaired driving are funded through a grant from the Texas Department of Transportation.

During the 2012 July 4 enforcement effort, Texas Department of Public Safety state troopers made 1,294 DWI arrests. An estimated 361 of them arrests were the direct result of the increased patrols.

DPS enforcement also resulted in nearly 13,700 speeding citation, more than 2,200 seat belt-child safety seat citations, 750 fugitive arrests and 518 felony arrests during this period.

To avoid a drunk driving tragedy, authorities suggest the following steps:

• Plan a safe way home.

• Designate a sober driver.

• Drunk drivers call a taxi, a sober friend or a family member for help. At the very least, please use some form of public transportation to get home safely.

• Contact law enforcement the minute a drunk driver is spotted.

• If you know someone who is about to drive impaired or ride with an impaired driver, take their keys and help them make a better decision. Also, make other arrangements to transport them to safety.

Information used in this story was provided in releases from the Texas DPS and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.