As the New Year’s holiday weekend approaches, authorities in Harris County are issuing a stern warning against drinking and driving. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office unveiled its comprehensive plans on Thursday for a “No Refusal DWI Initiative” aimed at curbing intoxicated driving incidents during the end-of-year celebrations.
Under this initiative, intoxicated or impaired drivers will not have the option to refuse a blood alcohol test when suspected of impairment. The enforcement efforts will be visible across Harris County, with checkpoints set up starting Friday night, emphasizing a zero-tolerance approach to drunk driving.
This annual initiative is part of ongoing efforts to ensure public safety during the holiday season. Last year’s campaign resulted in 42 DWI arrests and an additional 18 arrests unrelated to DWI.
Harris County has unfortunately gained notoriety for having one of the highest rates of deadly DWI crashes in the country. According to data from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the county witnessed 148 fatalities in DUI-related crashes in 2022. Statewide, over 1,000 lives were lost in accidents involving impaired drivers.
During a press conference on Thursday, the family of Deputy Jennifer Chavis, who lost her life to a suspected drunk driver in 2022, emphasized the personal toll of these incidents. Chavis’s sister remarked, “When we talk about realities, this is the reality of drunk driving that you see before you. We and their family as well stand before you with pictures because that’s all that we have left.”
Houston Police Department Chief Troy Finner, also present at the press conference, stressed the preventable nature of these incidents, stating, “And that’s what’s so frustrating because we come time and time again – and Harris County time and time again leads the nation in DWI-related deaths. Because you don’t want to be in jail, but we’re going to be out there. And most importantly – we don’t want to see any more victims.”
Highlighting recent legislative measures, it was noted that House Bill 393, passed earlier this year, mandates drunk drivers convicted of intoxication manslaughter to pay child support if they cause the death of a child’s guardian. Payments are required until the child turns 18 or graduates from high school.
As New Year’s Eve approaches, celebrants are strongly advised to plan ahead by arranging a ride home with a sober friend, family member, or rideshare service. Alternatively, staying put until sober is strongly encouraged to ensure the safety of all road users. Authorities emphasize the shared responsibility in preventing the tragic consequences of drunk driving incidents.