Crackdown on drunk driving getting results
Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

August 28, 2006 - You've seen the commercials, "Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest." But did you take the five state effort National Impaired Driving Labor Day Crackdown, spearheaded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration seriously?

Local law enforcement does. In fact, overnight Friday, local officers arrested six individuals for driving while  intoxicated following routine traffic stops — two by Sulphur Springs Police Department, one by sheriff's deputies and three by state troopers. One of the stops also resulted in a passenger going to jail for public intoxication as well.

Those thinking of trying their luck and risking the consequences of drunk driving during the crackdown which spans Aug. 18 to Sept. 4, much less any other time, might want to consider the odds.

As of 2004, 15,000 people in the country died in highway crashes involving a driver or motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol content of 0.01 or higher. Of those, nearly 13,000 were in crashes where the BAC was 0.08 or higher. That's an average of one alcohol related fatality every 31 minutes.

That same year, 46 percent of Texas crash fatalities were alcohol related, according to NHTSA data.

As if the personal risk wasn't great enough, about 248,00 others were injured in crashes were reported alcohol as a contributing factor, an average of one person injured every two minutes in the U.S. in 2004.

Then there's the monetary cost of driving drunk. Nearly 1.5 million drivers are arrested in the U.S. every year for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics, an arrest rate of one for every 130 licensed drivers. Each of those individuals ended up paying for their poor judgment monetarily and with at least a brief stay in jail.

Since last weekend, state troopers, police and deputies have arrested 16 people in Hopkins County for drunk driving as a result of traffic stops, and at least three passengers in those same instances for public intoxication. Of the 16 drunk driving arrests, at least three resulted in a wreck, according to law enforcement reports.

One dwi charge was enhanced to a felony offense due to the presence of a minor in the vehicle. The driver, 34-year-old Santiago Escobedo-Chavez, of Sulphur Springs, was stopped at 12:35 a.m. Sunday by state troopers for driving on the shoulder of the north interstate service road. He was very uncooperative, was unsteady on his feet and tested more than twice the legal limit on field sobriety tests.

At least three people arrested for drunk driving over the weekend had been arrested at least once before for DWI. Officers made six drunk driving arrests overnight Friday, with at least five others Saturday and Sunday nights.

Other drunk driving arrests which occurred just since Saturday, Aug. 26,  included:

  •  A Dike man, 28, was arrested at 1:55 a.m. Sunday on FM 71  by troopers for driving while intoxicated. He was stopped for a traffic violation and failed field sobriety tests.
  • Troopers arrested a Sulphur Springs man, 38, at 12:24 a.m. Sunday on Morris Street for driving while intoxicated, second offense. He was stopped crossing the center stripe and improper turn signal on U.S. Business 67. He exhibited signs of intoxication and admitted to drinking alcohol.
  • A Cumby man, 42, was arrested at 7:37 p.m. Saturday by troopers and deputies on State Highway 11 for driving while intoxicated, third or more offense. He was stopped for speeding. Alcohol was detected. He failed field sobriety tests. He tested 0.198 and 0.187 on breath tests.
  • Troopers arrested a Sulphur Springs man, 30, at 4:20 p.m. Sunday on State Highway 11 for driving while intoxicated, third or more offense. He was involved in a two vehicle head-on collision. Alcohol was detected on him. He said he wasn’t driving, but evidence at the scene and witnesses placed him as the driver. He failed field sobriety tests. He refused to perform breath tests.

While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's National Impaired Driving Labor Day Crackdown concluded on Sept. 4, that doesn't mean officers will stop arresting people for drunk driving. Officers will continue making traffic stops during the course of their daily routine, as was the case over the last week, and if the situation warrants will make drunk driving arrests.

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