DWI fatalities down, arrests up in Harris County

ABC13 file photo

July 29, 2012 8:41:51 PM PDT
One number is up and the other is down, and both could signal a positive change for Harris County.

According to the Harris County Sheriff's Office, arrests for driving while intoxicated have increased while the number of fatal alcohol-related accidents has decreased within the county.

DWI arrests made by Harris County Sheriff's Office crime-fighters have risen every year for the last five years, indicating a concentrated effort to get drunken drivers off the streets.

This year, the combined unincorporated areas where 1.5 million people live are on pace for the lowest total in at least five years for traffic fatalities caused by driving while intoxicated.

There were 24 such cases from January through June of 2012. In the comparative six-month period, there were 48 in 2011, 27 in 2010, 38 in 2009 and 37 in 2008.

Andrea Schmauss, a spokesperson for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, says the group is pleased to see the trend in fewer drunk driving deaths.

The group has been especially supportive of No Refusal crackdowns during holiday weekends where drunk driving is more common.

"One of the greatest assets we have that deters drunk driving is the fear of getting caught," Schmauss said. "That's the one thing that gets the most attention is that fear of possibly going to jail."

MADD says Texas also needs to do a better job of enforcing current laws and enacting stiffer punishments for violators.

Court-ordered alcoholism intervention programs for DWI defendants and public education campaigns probably have helped increase awareness about the dangers of DWI, Sheriff Adrian Garcia said, "but our deputies patrolling the streets send the strongest message of all when they arrest drunk drivers and put them in jail. That's where they sober up and wake up to the reality of now having a criminal record that will possibly affect them for the rest of their lives."

DWI arrests by HCSO:

  • 2008: 1,555
  • 2009: 1,633
  • 2010: 2,179
  • 2011: 2,211
  • 2012: 1,367 through June, on pace for 2,734 for the year

DWI fatalities in HCSO patrol areas:

  • 2008: 75
  • 2009: 91
  • 2010: 56
  • 2011: 85
  • 2012: 24 through June, on pace for 48 for the year

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