Far too many people in Houston, Texas and the surrounding area are killed or seriously injured by drunk and intoxicated drivers.
“Houston is ground zero for DWI fatalities …,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg recently told The Houston Chronicle.
“No family should live with the pain of getting that knock on the door in the middle of the night.”
The Houston Metropolitan Area is “Ground Zero” for DWI Deaths
According to the Chronicle, the 9-county Houston metro region saw more fatal drunken-driving crashes during the last 16 years than any other major metropolitan area in the country.
In that time, over 3,000 deadly wrecks were attributed to drunk or intoxicated drivers.
That’s roughly 1,000 more than Los Angeles, a metro region with double the population.
Houston Averages Over 5,000 DWI Crashes Annually
Among the 12 largest metro regions in the country, only Dallas/Fort Worth — with 2,425 alcohol- or drug-related fatal crashes over the same time period – even approached the Houston area’s numbers.
Since 2010, the metro region has averaged more than 5,000 DWI-related crashes every year. That amounts to nearly 14 per day.
Fatalities across the area remain above 300 each year.
“We are the worst state in the nation for drunk-driving fatalities and crashes,” Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo told the Chronicle. “And we happen to be the worst of the worst in Harris County. We can’t afford to have an ‘it’s not important’ attitude.”
Too often, Impaired Drivers Escape Punishment in Harris County
Unfortunately, the state of Texas has done little to reduce the rate of deadly DWI crashes.
Traffic and speeding enforcement have been declining for years, and most local police departments lack the resources to assign more than a few officers to dedicated DWI patrols.
Some departments don’t even have officers assigned to regular DWI enforcement, opting instead to leave the task to their already over-worked routine traffic patrols.
To make matters worse, impaired drivers who are caught face little – if any – punishment, even when their recklessness kills innocent motorists.
In fact, since 2015, about a dozen Harris County drivers who were convicted of intoxication manslaughter escaped serving any jail time at all.
Texas Lawmakers Resist Laws that Could Reduce Intoxicated Driving
Texas lawmakers also appear loathe to enact legislation– including stronger license revocation laws for repeat offenders and allowing police to set up sobriety check points – that could reduce the death toll.
Even though data from other states has proven the value of such legislation, strict DWI laws apparently represent a political minefield in the Lone Star State.
“The kinds of measures that can reduce drunk driving are exactly the issues Texans struggle with,” state Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, told The Houston Chronicle. “The kinds of things that can be done are the kinds of things that usually interfere with the rights of the people who are not engaging in the behavior.”
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