HOUSTON - During this time of year, many drivers dread the holiday traffic they will have to deal with because of people traveling and shopping for the season. Rarely do we think that when we get behind the wheel, we are driving during the most dangerous time of the year on our roadways.
The number of accidents on our roadways starts to go up during this time every year, which is why Harris County officials are not wasting time and are out in full force monitoring the major highways. They are even using satellites to help enforce their no-refusal policy, which means you cannot say no to a field sobriety test if pulled over.
“Even the height of summer doesn’t compare to this six week period, and that is why we say this is the most dangerous time to be on the road for anyone," says Sean Teare, Chief of Harris County District Attorney’s Office Vehicular Crimes Division.
Houston’s roads are always congested, and the holidays mean it is going to get worse. People travel in every direction, so it is hard to pinpoint which routes are the safest to travel.
“We don’t have big mass transit, and we have people driving, and so it’s deadly everywhere. Every single road you’re on has the potential of tragedy ensuing," says Teare.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, since November 7, 2000 there has not been one deathless day on our roadways. That’s about 67,000 deaths in Texas in almost 20 years. 3,647 people lost their lives in 2018, and so far this year 549 deaths occurred just on Houston area highways. This is why TxDOT collaborates with local organizations like the vehicular crimes division of the Harris County District Attorney’s office to try to get drivers who are breaking the law off the streets.
“We’re up to over 14,000 arrests as of yesterday for DWI in Harris county this year, and we expect to have a lot more over the next six weeks. That number does not indicate that there are more drunks out on the road then there were last year or the year before. It simply means we’re catching more of them before they kill people," says Teare.
Driving under the influence is the last thing you should be doing, but driving while distracted is just as dangerous. If both were avoided, TXDOT says about 94 percent of accidents on Houston roadways would be avoided.
“While you may not be that drunk driver, you could also be the one that’s on your phone or texting, and that causes fatalities and crashes as well," says Deidrea George with TxDOT.
You also want to be patient when traveling and have a plan whether it’s a designated driver or using a ride-sharing service so that you and the people you could impact will have a safe holiday season.