HOUSTON (FOX 26) — It is a warning we have all heard: "Don’t drink and drive."
Even with all of the campaigns out there, Harris County and Houston continue to lead the U.S. with some of the highest rates of fatal crashes because of intoxicated drivers.
Ahead of New Year’s Eve, AAA Texas brought together law enforcement agencies, the families of drunk driving crash victims, and health professionals to discuss the ramifications of impaired driving.
Carol Levin clutched a binder of photos as she described her son, Todd, who was 27 years old when his car was T-boned by a vehicle with an intoxicated driver behind the steering wheel. Todd and his fiancé were killed in that crash in 2006.
Levin now works with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (M.A.D.D.) to increase awareness about the real-life results of the all too common occurrence.
Even with that awareness, Houston Police Department Sergeant Don Egdorf says Houston and Harris County log some of the nation’s highest numbers for fatal crashes involving drunk drivers. He also says law enforcement officers pull drunk drivers over as early as 10 a.m.
"You really see from one extreme to the other," says Sgt. Egdorf. "The people that know 'I really messed up' and the people that are like, 'I didn't do anything wrong.'"
Toron Wooldridge has a different safety message for people. His two younger sisters were killed in 2016 when they were returning from spring break. Wooldridge says the driver of the car they were riding in, looked down at her phone, then veered into oncoming traffic. The three passengers died in a head-on collision with an 18-wheeler. The driver survived.
"You think that with a cell phone or different devices in your vehicle, you can multitask,” says Wooldridge. "But when you lose two important members of your family due to something like that, it makes you reflective of your own practices."
AAA Texas is encouraging people to pick a designated driver before the party begins or use ride sharing services to get home. As a last resort, AAA Texas is offering Tipsy Tow on New Year’s Eve. If you call 1-800 AAA Help, a tow truck will be sent to your location and tow you and your vehicle home (with no other passengers allowed) for free up to 10 miles. Tows farther than ten miles will be charged.