There’s no good time to get behind the wheel of a car while you’re intoxicated. But certain holidays and weekends tend to yield higher numbers of DWI incidents.
Increased deaths, injuries, and fatalities mar these otherwise festive occasions, which leads state officials and police to wonder how to prevent such events. In Houston, the recent uptick in DWI arrests and deaths has drawn attention to the need for greater awareness and prevention of this dangerous behavior.
Houston’s high number of DWIs over the weekend of the Fourth
This year, Houston saw an unusually high number of DWI arrests during the days around Independence Day. Authorities said they arrested nearly 200 people during their drinking and driving “crackdown” the weekend of the Fourth of July.
The initiative included law enforcement officials in Jacinto City, Jersey Village, La Porte, Pasadena, Baytown, Tomball, Bellaire, and Galena Park. In addition to the arrests, three fatal traffic collisions may have occurred due to alcohol consumption by one or more drivers:
On West Compaq Center Drive, a Chevrolet Avalanche collided with a tree, rolled over and caught fire. The driver died at the scene.
Driver Omar Lopez struck a utility pole with his Lincoln Town Car in the 2200 block of Sheldon Road and died.
A Chevrolet Silverado on FM 2920 struck a pedestrian, and fatally injured him.
Although toxicology reports are still pending, officers suspect intoxicants may have played a role in one or more of these incidents.
When and why DWI driving increases
Despite its illegality and dire consequences, drunk driving occurs every day. Whether individuals fail to realize they’ve had too much to drink or flagrantly disregard the safety of themselves and others, the result is increased threats on the roads.
Certain occasions lead to higher incidence of DWI driving and more resulting traffic accidents, however. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), increased risk to drivers occurs at several times during the year due to a combination of factors, including:
Heavy traffic. Statistically, a larger number of vehicles on the roads at the same time leads to higher accident rates.
Long-distance travel. When many individuals travel hundreds of miles to see family or friends, fatigue and lack of familiarity with local traffic patterns and laws makes driving more risky.
Drinking. Occasions on which individuals typically drink more often (and in larger quantities) lead to more of impaired drivers getting behind the wheel.
Throughout the year, the most notable times at which these variables combine is during holidays. Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Labor Day, and Memorial Day all show increased rates of drunk-driving violations.
But the Fourth of July comes in second only to Thanksgiving as the most perilous holiday for drivers.
Keeping safe from impaired driving
Regardless of the season, drivers should always adopt defensive driving techniques and remain aware of everyone around them. During periods of increased DWI activity, though, people may wish to employ extra caution to keep themselves and their families safe.
These tactics include:
Practicing temperance. Avoid drinking to excess, especially when you can anticipate the need to drive in the next few hours.
Using a designated driver. Those who plan to drink more than one or two alcoholic beverages should arrange ahead of time to have a trusted individual drive them home.
Staying off the roads. Limit driving time during times of increased risk, especially after dark (when accidents become most frequent).
Using safety restraints. This should go without saying, but the best way to avoid injury in a collision is to wear a seatbelt and make sure air bags are operational.
Reporting reckless driving. When other drivers exhibit signs of DWI driving, such as weaving, swerving, or aggressive behavior, have a passenger take down their license plate number and a description of their vehicle, and contact the police.
By following these precautions, drivers stand the best chance of enjoying their holidays in safety and comfort.
Avoid DWI throughout the year
According to Houston DWI attorney Jay Cohen, DWI is a serious offense under Texas law. With the first conviction, individuals face up to $2,000 in fines, jail time, and license suspension. The penalties increase with each offense and with additional factors, such as having a child in the car.
Regardless of the season, Texans’ happiness and health depend on their adherence to state law. When you’re celebrating the next holiday or special occasion, consider the consequences of drinking and driving before you climb behind the wheel.
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