Shared from the 12/27/2018 Houston Chronicle eEdition

Driving drunk this weekend? Don’t try it

Prosecutors fret that the upcoming four-day weekend could prove to be an especially deadly one for drunken drivers and innocent motorists alike due to a quirk in the calendar, prosecutors say.

With many workers taking Friday and Monday off, prosecutors with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office say the holiday weekend could cause more drivers to get behind the wheel while intoxicated.

“What we’re dreading is a long and bloody weekend,” First Assistant District Attorney Tom Berg told Wednesday.

Each year, more than 600 people die on roadways throughout the Houston region, many of which are at the hands of intoxicated drivers, according to a recent Houston Chronicle analysis.

That same analysis lists the Houston region as the deadliest for motorists in the country.

“This is an unbelievable crisis that we’re facing,” Vehicular Crimes Division Chief Sean Teare said on Wednesday. “We lead the nation, year-in, year-out in fatalities on our roadways, specifically attributable to DWI. We’re not anywhere near the size of Los Angeles or New York, and we’re not as big as Chicago — and we blow them away every year. It’s inexplicable.”

The upcoming weekend will likely not be any different, Teare said.

“It’s acalendar quirk that could prove to be extraordinarily dangerous and deadly,” Teare said. “You have Friday, Saturday and Sunday leading up to the two days that everyone is off. You’ve got five days of drinking leading up to New Year’s Day.”

Every law enforcement agency in Harris County — from the Houston Police Department to smaller jurisdictions — is upping the number of officers on the streets to help nab intoxicated drivers.

But the legwork behind the scenes will also be robust, Teare said. Prosecutors, nurses and judges are all going to be on standby to help build a case against suspected drunken drivers.

Once the officers make an arrest, they will perform field sobriety tests and ask suspects to voluntarily give a blood sample to test their blood-alcohol concentration — a standard technique for law enforcement across the region.

If a suspected intoxicated driver refuses to volunteer a blood sample, officers work closely with on-call prosecutors to review probable cause and file for a blood warrant.

Once that warrant is filed, an on-call judge reviews and signs off on it, allowing the on-call nurses to draw blood from the suspect.

Prosecutor Berg urged Houstonians ringing in the new year to have a plan to get home safely, such as hailing a ride-share or taxi.

Law enforcement already has an alternative for those who don’t heed the advice, he said.

“We have a plan for you,” Berg said, “which involves getting evaluated and then probably going to jail.”

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