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Drunk Driving Surges in Houston at the Holidays — How to Stay Safe 

A shot glass full of dark colored alcohol on top of a bar table along with a set of car keys. Drinking and driving surges at the holidays in Houston.

When the holidays roll around, cities across the nation see an uptick in accidents, but none so bad as Houston. Our drunk driving problem and dangerous roads are the worst in the nation year-round. And with more than 2.2 million residents in our car-centric city on their merry way to stores, bars and restaurants, family gatherings, and festive outings this time of year, the likelihood of encountering an intoxicated driver is practically inevitable. 

Here’s what you need to know about the dangerous drunk driving surge at the holidays, why it persists year after year, and how to protect yourself from a DUI accident

If you or a loved one were hit by a drunk driver, contact a Houston Car Accident Attorney at 1-888-603-3636. 

1 in 3 Fatal Wrecks at Holidays Involve a Drunk Driver  

Texas leads the nation in deadly drunk driving accidents — with a drunk driving death occurring every nine hours. In 2022, 1 in 3 deadly motor vehicle accidents at the holidays involved a drunk driver, according to Texas Department of Transportation crash statistics. Of the 1,246 fatalities and 2,513 serious injuries caused by drunk drivers in Texas in 2022: 

  • 108 fatalities caused by drunk drivers happened in December 
  • 229 serious injuries caused by drunk drivers happened in December  
  • 9% of all fatalities caused by a drunk driver in 2022 happened in December 

Houston Worst in Nation for Deadly New Year’s Car Accidents 

As ground zero for DWI fatalities nationwide, Houston is unsurprisingly also one of the deadliest cities in the nation for driving on New Year’s, which is the booziest holiday in the U.S. with 40% of women and 47% of men reporting that they binge drink to celebrate. 

When these holidays fall on or around long weekends, the number of drunk driving accidents and fatalities can significantly increase as the days leading up to the holiday allow for more drinking.  In 2022, the Houston Police Department arrested 43 people in Houston for drunk driving on New Year’s Eve alone, which fell on a Saturday.

The greater Harris Country area has seen more deadly drunk driving accidents than any other major metroplex in America in the last two decades.  In 2022, the county saw 3,553 drunk driving accidents. By comparison, the second worst county for drunk driving accidents (Dallas) saw only 2,275. That’s 1,278 more crashes caused by intoxicated drivers in Houston! Of those, Houston tragically saw 160 fatalities and another 257 serious injuries. 

While these aren’t exactly the uplifting statistics you want to share at your Secret Santa gift exchange or office party, they are certainly figures you want to keep in mind on your way to and from any events where alcohol is served.  Alcohol affects your ability to drive, but acting responsibly is simple: designate a sober driver, get a taxi, and don’t get behind the wheel. That’s the best gift you can give to the world this holiday. 

Why Do Crashes Spike at the Holidays? 

The shocking truth is that even as drunk driving accidents on most holidays have decreased year over year across the U.S., both Christmas and New Year’s remain more dangerous than ever. 

There are a number of reasons why drunk driver accidents persist at the holidays — and a few unknowns as well. 

For instance, NIH research seems to indicate that drunk driving accidents may be correlated to social and cultural norms and even to geographical location. In other words, people who typically drive a long way to get to their destinations and back — as is usually the case in a sprawling metroplex like Houston — could very well contribute to more of these accidents. 

Likewise, it’s widely believed that the stress caused by people either celebrating alone or with family or friends they don’t get along with could increase the chances of overindulging.  Plus, even a single sip of alcohol can interact with many medications, leading people to believe that since they didn’t drink much they are not impaired.  But even a small amount of alcohol can affect driving ability. In 2021, there were 2,266 people killed in alcohol-related crashes where a driver had a blood alcohol limit under the legal limit, according to the NHTSA

Common causes for a spike in deadly drunk driving accidents may also include:  

  • Excess drinking  
  • Adverse weather conditions 
  • More traffic on the roads 
  • More drunk drivers on the road 

How to Spot a Drunk Driver on the Road 

Even the safest drivers on the road can’t guarantee they won’t run into trouble. The fact is, drunk driving is an epidemic in Texas, and your odds of encountering an intoxicated driver can even increase by the very day and time you drive. 

As you probably guessed, the riskiest nights to drive in Texas are Fridays and Saturdays (into very early Sunday morning).  And most driving accidents occur between the hours of 11 p.m. and 3 a.m., according to TxDOT data.  In fact, the number of deadly drunk driving accidents that occurred between 2 and 3 a.m. last year (139 fatal crashes total) was 46 times the number of those that occurred between 8 and 9 a.m. (3 fatal crashes total).  

If you do find yourself in the vicinity of a reckless driver, here are a few common signs that they may be impaired: 

  • Swerving 
  • Speeding  
  • Slow driving or excessive braking  
  • Blowing a red light or stop sign 
  • No headlights or turn signals 
  • Hugging the centerline 
  • Tailgating  

Unfortunately, in the age of cell phones, it can also be hard to tell if a person is simply distracted, which contributes up to 12% of all driving deaths in Texas and often includes many of the same signs as  intoxicated driving. Either way, it’s important to drive defensively and keep your distance. 

Tips for Driving Safer During the Holidays 

Holidays are all about celebration with parties, events and entire social calendars often built around convivial drinking.  While you don’t have to miss out on the celebration, you should think hard about what it means to act responsibly and stay safe. 

 “A safe and sober ride should be at the top of your list when making plans with family and friends,” says TxDOT Executive Director Marc Williams. “If not, you risk your job, your life and the lives of others. It’s just not worth it.” 

Follow these tips to make sure you enjoy the holidays responsibly:  

  • Plan ahead to know how you’re getting home before you start drinking. 
  • Assign a designated driver who will not drink at the event you’re going to and stick to the plan. 
  • Use Uber, Lift, or hail a taxi and leave your car at home — it may cost a little extra and you’ll need to make sure your phone is fully charged, but it’s well worth it. 
  • Have a friend ready that you can always call if you overindulge and ask them to pick you up or call you a cab. 
  • Plan to spend the night if you’re heading to a house party, family gathering, or holiday celebration that you think you might get tipsy at. 
  • Offer overnight accommodations for people who attend a party at your home. 
  • Don’t drink. It is, after all, the only surefire way to guarantee you will remain sober, safe, and alert behind the wheel.  

Injured in a Drunk Driving Accident? Contact our Undefeated Houston Car Accident Lawyers for a Free Consultation at 1-888-603-3636 or by Clicking Here 

In addition to being Undefeated, our Houston Car Accident Lawyers have won Billions accident victims, including the Largest Accident Settlements in Texas

If you or someone you love were injured or tragically killed in a drunk driving crash, please call 1-888-603-3636 or Click Here to send us a confidential email via our “Contact Us” form. 

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