No-refusal weekend gets underway

September 3, 2010 10:50:30 AM PDT
Millions of Americans will be hitting the road for the Labor Day holiday weekend and so will officers, who will be monitoring the roads for drunk drivers. Police say drunk drivers have already been causing big problems across Houston. This is a no-refusal weekend and drivers who refuse breathalyzer tests can be ordered to get blood draws thanks to a partnership between the DA's office and law enforcement agencies.

AAA says 10 percent more Americans are going to be traveling by car this Labor Day weekend -- 31.4 million people in all -- and that means more people are at risk of being hit by drunk drivers.

Three different suspected DWI crashes happened just overnight. At midnight, a suspected drunk driver hit two other cars on Highway 249 at Breen. That driver turned into oncoming lanes of traffic and hit another car and a pickup truck with her Toyota. She and a passenger were listed as stable following the wreck. The other people were not hurt. Deputies say she was "highly intoxicated."

Just three hours earlier on Broadway and Morely Street, a suspected drunk driver injured an HPD officer. The HPD unit was traveling south on Broadway when a minivan traveling westbound ran a red light, causing the officer to hit the van. Two people in the minivan and the officer went to Southeast Memorial Hospital. They are all listed as stable. The driver of the minivan is charged with both DWI and intoxication assault.

"The van was traveling westbound on Morley, running a red light. An outside witness verified that. A patrol vehicle struck the van. They came to rest in the intersection," said Officer Stephen Martinez with the Houston Police Department.

And there was a third suspected DWI incident overnight. The driver led police on a chase around Highway 288 travelling the wrong way. He told officers he thought he was getting on an exit ramp. He eventually crashed into a fence.

Many victims in these alcohol-related crashes are young people. That's why every year, Texas Southern University hosts it's 'Drink, Drive, Go to Jail' event.

"Alcohol abuse is high, especially in the college life," said TSU student Eoles Whittaker. "So you really need to know what is going on and plan out who is doing the driving and who is doing the drinking," said TSU student Eoles Whittaker.

Harris County leads the nation in DWI fatalities and Sheriff Adrian Garcia wants to change that frightening statistic.

"We want to make sure that you go out and have your fun and come back home without either being involved as a perpetrator of drunk driving or being involved as a victim to drunk driving, or having to spend the weekend in my jail," Garcia said.

Twenty-five percent of people killed in alcohol-related crashes are between the ages of 20 and 25. The Harris County no-refusal weekend begins runs through Sunday at 6am.

On the Fourth of July, no refusal weekend generated 54 arrests in just one night. Authorities are predicting a similar count this holiday weekend.


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