With the month of December comes a lot of travel time — whether it's Christmas shopping, visiting family and friends for the holidays, New Year's Eve or run-of-the-mill work commuting, the roads get a little busier this time of year.
According to information from MADD.org, another statistic that spikes with the holiday season is the number of drunk drivers on the road, usually beginning around Thanksgiving. In the past, the Texas Department of Transportation has launched the Holiday P.A.S.S. (Person Appointed to Stay Sober) Campaign in an effort to remind drivers to appoint a designated driver for so many of those upcoming Christmas and New Year's parties.
Last year's holiday season saw 776 DWI crashes in Texas — 239 of those resulting in serious injuries and 78 fatalities.
“Seventy-eight people died on Texas roads as a result of drunk driving or under the influence of drugs while driving in just one month,” said Adele Lewis, Wichita Falls District 9 TxDOT public information officer. “That's more than two a day. It's really a bad time of the year. We saw an increase over the holiday season because we had 776 last year and the previous year we had 709 crashes. So, we've had over a 9 percent increase this last holiday season on Texas roads. When I say Texas roads, I'm talking city streets, country roads with two lanes, any road — state federal or local.”
From 6 p.m. Dec. 18 to 11:50 p.m. Jan. 1, the New Years holiday reporting period, there were 149 crashes with 33 serious injuries and 16 fatalities.
“That's like four people gone a day just right there,” Lewis said. The increase doesn't stop at the holidays alone, as research from TxDOT indicates that most Texans drink during football games and attempt to drive home. Last football season saw more than 1,600 DUI crashes when a Texas college or professional football team was playing. As of July 2013, a total of 90,066 DUI arrests have been made in Texas overall.
“I suspect there would be some increase during the holidays,” said Young County Attorney Dayne Miller.
Read the entire story in this weekend's Graham Leader.