'We lead the country': How Harris County has become one of the deadliest places to drive

Miya Shay Image
Monday, January 2, 2023
Will these roads in Texas remain the deadliest as 2023 begins?
The county leads the country in intoxicated-related deaths every year and it could be because of a lack of public transportation, according to Sean Teare, the head of the Vehicular

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- As 2023 begins, Dawn Gonzalez couldn't celebrate the occasion with her best friends as she had planned.

"I'm still in shock. I still haven't had time to grieve," Gonzalez said. Gonzalez recently sat down with ABC13 and talked about the tragic deaths of her best friend, Ann Barrett, and her husband, Sedrick.

New Year's Eve, and any other holiday, just have been different since Sunday, March 27. That day, Gonzalez, the Barretts, and several other close friends had just finished dinner at a steakhouse and were crossing the street when a car sped through Westheimer near Greenridge.

SEE ALSO: Harris County ranks 10th in the nation in traffic fatalities, says new report

The Barretts were hit, and Gonzalez, who was just a few steps behind them, saw it all.

"I saw it, and I was in shock, and I couldn't get to my friend because there was traffic still coming. And some people took pictures of her and put them on social media," she said.

The accused driver, Donovan Donte Harris, is now charged with two counts of intoxicated manslaughter.

Sean Teare, head of the Vehicular Crimes Division in the Harris County District Attorney's Office, said he wishes he didn't have to file so many of those charges.

"We lead the country in intoxicated-related deaths, so every year, the fatalities on our roadways that are directly related to alcohol and or drugs," Teare said. "That's the number we lead the country in."

Teare says the reason for the unenviable status is complex. He says the sprawling interstate system, willingness to commute long distances for our daily activities, and lack of public transportation contribute to a situation that makes our roads the deadliest in the country.

SEE ALSO: 2021 was the 2nd deadliest year ever on Texas roadways with more than 4,480 deaths, TxDOT says

"Starting the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and going all the way through Jan.2 , that's where we see our highest numbers of DWI's and one of our higher rates of intoxicated manslaughters.

In December 2022, Daniel Canada was convicted of driving drunk, killing 28-year-old Porsha Branch and her three young children. The 37-year-old was going at least 100 miles per hour when he slammed into Branch's car in March of 2021. He was sentenced to four life sentences.

The latest data shows that in 2022, the district attorney's office charged 11,605 cases of DWI, 56 cases of intoxicated assault, and 41 cases of intoxicated manslaughter.

However, the statistics from the District attorney's office don't paint a full picture. That's because when a drunk person is driving alone, for example, and that person spins out or hits a tree and dies, there would be nobody to charge with a crime. However, that tragic death still occurs.

"What I would tell people is that it only takes one second and one bad decision to ruin somebody else's life," Gonzalez said.

She thinks about her friends whenever she drives by that stretch of Westheimer between Fountainview and Voss.

Gonzalez plans to install a cross to memorialize her friends who died. But hopes in sharing her grief, others will think before getting behind the wheel.

And maybe, in 2023, Harris County roads will no longer be the deadliest in the country.

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