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Texan Government and Legal Professionals Offer Tips for Safe and Happy Driving This Holiday Season

Year after year, Texas leads the nation in traffic fatalities due to drunk driving. Add to that the still-growing spike in fatal crashes due to the energy boom, and Texans have good reason to think carefully about staying safe on the road this holiday season.

Auto accidents can be financially, emotionally and physically devastating, especially during the holidays. Fortunately, it is easy to reduce the risk of being involved in a crash.

  • Stay off the road after 1:00 a.m. Most drunk driving accidents occur between 1:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m. Even if most people drive sober, inevitably, some will not. Keep loved ones off the roads in the early morning hours as much as possible.
  • Get some sleep. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has found that cutting sleep short by even two or three hours can make an accident up to four times more likely. Anyone who is hung over or sleepy should stay out of the driver’s seat on New Year’s Day or the day after Christmas.
  • Talk to young people. According to the CDC, a staggering 32 percent of fatal alcohol-related crashes involve a driver between the ages of 21 and 24. Know a young person coming home for the holidays? Let them know how much they are loved, and warn them about the risks of impaired driving.
  • Get the car checked. Around the holidays, the National Safety Council recommends a full inspection and tune up to ensure optimal brake and acceleration response times. Temperature changes and extreme temperatures can cause mechanical problems. In addition, make sure the car has a spare tire, jumper cables and a first aid kit.
    Remember that no-refusal DWI checkpoints may be in effect. The Dallas police have made a habit of setting up mandatory sobriety checkpoints around the holidays. Anyone who refuses to take a breathalyzer or blood test may be arrested and taken to jail for a forced sample collection. Avoid the drama and make sure your driver has had absolutely nothing to drink.

Calls From Concerned Citizens A Help In Combating Drunk Driving

Calls from passing motorists can help Texas police locate drunk drivers and get them off the road.

Many of the calls emergency dispatchers receive must be transferred to other jurisdictions and the 911 callers may not be present to see the driver they suspected of driving while inebriated, but both Texas dispatchers and police have stated that passing motorists are a great help. The director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Jeff Miracle, says that he speaks to someone approximately once a month who feels they called 911 to report a potentially drunk driver, only to have to eventually give up when an officer did not arrive in time to make a stop. But, says Miracle, he knows the police are trying to catch as many drunk drivers as possible.

The police have stated that the 911 calls from a concerned citizen often must be transferred from one jurisdiction to another as the driver crosses county lines and other police departments must become involved. A typical department may have as few as half a dozen officers in the DWI unit, and those officers cannot be throughout the city. A citizen call to 911 can be the crucial connection which allows a DWI officer to respond to suspected drunk driving in an area through which pass thousands and even tens of thousands of cars.

When someone calls 911 to report a suspected inebriated driver, dispatch operators are trained to ask specific questions, including the cross street, direction heading, a description of the vehicle, the color, the license plate, and what direction in which they are heading. While an individual can follow the driver if they feel safe doing so, the decision to do so is voluntary.

Of the approximately 182,000 911 emergency calls the city of Irving received last year, it is estimated that close to 2,400 of those calls were for suspected drunk driving. In 2011, there were more than 2,500 DUI-related car accidents in Texas, which resulted in more than 3,000 deaths.

In Texas, it is a crime to drive with a blood alcohol content concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or more. More restrictive laws apply for commercial drivers. Commercial vehicle operators must not have a BAC of 0.04% or more. Minors (individuals under age 21) commit an offense if driving with a BAC of 0.01% or more.