HOUSTON (FOX 26) - It's been non-stop for days now. The latest fatal wreck just happened on the West Beltway feeder when a driver drifted into another car, veered off and then drove into a crowded parking lot. His car burst into flames. He didn't make it. Was it Drugs? Alcohol?
"We have no earthly idea. No earthly idea," said HPD Sgt. S. Maness.
At least not until there's an autopsy. Regardless, the Houston area has a well-established drinking and driving problem. This is one of the worst nights for it. But Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo says despite this weekend bloodshed, the numbers show the tide is turning.
"The good news is we are headed in the right direction," Chief Acevedo says. "The bad news is there are still too many people dying from DWI in the City of Houston."
He says the city has drastically increased the number of DWI arrests. In 2016 and 2017, they made 4,400 arrests. In 2018 they’re on track to make 5,000. The net result is the number of people killed in DWI wreck is down. In 2016, there were 83. In 2017, there were 55. This year, there have been 26.
How much of an assist are ride sharing services like Uber and lift giving in the fight against drunk driving? The industry is showing an 11 percent annual growth rate, but studies about their impact on DWI rates are inconclusive. Nationally, DWI’s are on the decline. Acevedo believes stepped enforcement has made the difference here -- no refusal weekend and maximum enforcement efforts at key times.
"On absolutely. There will be more officers. I'll be out there tonight with my officers patrolling and my goal is to remove people off the streets before anyone gets injured or killed," Chief Acevedo says. "Before somebody has to identify a loved one in a morgue."
This year‘s DWI fatality numbers will likely rise even if New Year’s Eve is free of fatalities. Toxicology reports can take up to three months to trickle back, so we won’t have official number until the spring.