H-GAC continuing regional DWI Task Force in March
The Houston-Galveston Area Council announced the March dates for the Regional DWI Task Force. The Regional DWI Task Force will operate on the nights of March 8-9 and March 15-16 to cut down on driving while intoxicated (DWI). These weekends cap the typical spring break week in our area but will also cover rodeo activities and the St. Patrick’s Day weekend. This is the second enforcement wave for this Task Force, which is comprised of multiple agencies from around the Houston-Galveston area. This initiative provides overtime funds for agencies to provide enhanced DWI enforcement during holiday weekends when there has traditionally been more alcohol-related traffic incidents.
Funding for the program is provided by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) through a Selective Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP) grant. This STEP grant, which is administered through H-GAC, will fund up to 50 additional officers each night looking specifically for drunk drivers. This initiative provides a unique opportunity for smaller law enforcement agencies who would not necessarily qualify for a STEP grant to participate in curbing the DWI problem. By having H-GAC administer the grant, resources from the various agencies are pooled in order to meet the grant requirements. During the Christmas/New Year’s enforcement period, 46 officers from 13 agencies made 64 DWI arrests and gave out over nearly 250 traffic citations.
Convicted first-time DWI offenders can pay a fine up to $2,000, serve six months in jail, lose their driver’s license for up to a year, and pay an additional $3,000 to retain their license once they get it back. Safety officials say other costs associated with an impaired driving arrest and conviction can add up to more than $17,000 for bail, legal fees, court appearances, court-ordered classes, vehicle insurance increases, and other expenses.
Of course, the consequences can be much worse than just jail time and fines. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2011, 240 people died regionally in DWI-related incidents, with 167 of those fatalities occurring in Harris County. This ranks Harris County as the Drunk Driving Capital of the United States with more fatalities than any other county in the nation and more fatalities per capita for large counties.
“This is a senseless crime that is easy to prevent. If you choose to drink, appoint a designated driver or arrange for a ride home,” said Jeff Kaufman from H-GAC. “But do know that if you do make the decision to drink and drive during this enforcement period, there will be a lot more police officers out there looking for you.”
In addition to this enforcement wave, from March 18-21, 2013, H-GAC is working in conjunction with the Bay Area Council on Drugs and Alcohol (BACODA) to establish the 5th Annual Healing Field® at Nessler Park and Doyle Convention Center in Texas City. The Healing Field® serves as a temporary memorial to commemorate over 1,500 individuals throughout Texas who lost their lives in alcohol-related traffic incidents. Opening ceremonies to commemorate those lost will be on March 18th at 4pm at the Field. For more information on The Healing Field®, please visit www.bacoda.org.
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