By TONY EIERDAM
AUSTIN – In an effort to curb alcohol-related crashes and save lives, the Texas Department of Public Safety has stepped up statewide patrols during the 10-day Fourth of July holiday period that began June 28 and runs through July 7.
The increased patrols are funded through a TxDOT grant.
Independence Day traditionally ranks among the deadliest holiday periods on Texas highways, and last year was no exception with 133 alcohol-related crashes.
The Texas Department of Transportation has also gotten into the drunk-driving awareness act. In an effort to save lives and prevent roadway crashes over the extended Fourth of July weekend, TxDOT is introducing its Faces of Drunk Driving safety campaign to urge motorists to be smart and drive sober.
“On average, there is an alcohol-related traffic crash in Texas every 20 minutes,” said TxDOT Executive Director Phil Wilson. “Drunk driving crashes are 100 percent preventable and so is the pain that comes with each one.”
Throughout the month of July, TxDOT will host Faces of Drunk Driving events across the state at which safety advocates, law enforcement and victims of drunk driving will share their stories in front of 1,170 Texas flags, representing the number of people killed in alcohol-related crashes in Texas last year. More than 9,400 people also were seriously injured in alcohol-related crashes in 2012.
Helping TxDOT deliver this sobering message is 9-year-old Xitclalli “Chilli” Vasquez, who was paralyzed from the chest down after being hit by a drunk driver in Fort Worth on July 9, 2011, just three days before her eighth birthday. Also sharing their story is the family of Aaron Pennywell, 20, who was killed by a drunk driver two years ago in Cypress. These stories, along with those of more than a dozen others impacted by drunk driving, can be found at www.FacesofDrunkDriving.com.
“If the possibility of killing yourself or someone else isn’t a good enough reason to not drink and drive, you should know that being arrested for DWI also has longstanding, negative consequences,” Wilson said. “DWI penalties include jail time, a suspended driver’s license and as much as $17,000 or more in fines, legal fees and other expenses. You and your family can’t afford it, so be smart and safe while celebrating the holiday.”
Law enforcement around Texas will conduct a “No Refusal” initiative over the Independence Day weekend. “No Refusal” operations allow for suspected drunk drivers to be pulled over and required by law to provide police with a breath or blood sample. Motorists found to be legally intoxicated (with a blood or breath alcohol content of .08 or higher) face arrest and prosecution.