The Houston-Galveston Area Council has announced that its Regional DWI Task Force, which consists of 14 law enforcement agencies throughout the Houston-Galveston area, will be operating throughout Memorial Day weekend to cut down on driving while intoxicated (DWI). This is the third enforcement wave for this Task Force, which is funded through a Selective Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP) grant awarded by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). 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. Since its inception, the Task Force has made 125 DWI arrests over its first two enforcement periods.
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.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2011, 240 people died regionally in DWI-related incidents, making up 20 percent of Texas’ DWI fatalities. In addition, over 1,500 people regionally were seriously injured.
“Risking jail time or an intoxication manslaughter charge over a few drinks is an irresponsible gamble,” said Jeff Kaufman from H-GAC. “There will be a lot more police officers out there looking for you if you choose to make such a wager. If you choose to drink, appoint a designated driver or arrange for a ride home.”