Come on, Texans, we can do better. Texas is the best place to go tubing in the summer, the best place to camp under a star-filled sky, the best place to eat BBQ and the best place to boat on many of our recreational lakes. Do we really want to be that state where people die every summer in drunk driving crashes?
Labor Day is the traditional celebration of summer’s end. But there’s little to celebrate in the number of Texans killed by drunk driving during May through August. From May through August in 2011, 366 people died in alcohol-related crashes in Texas; 34 percent of all alcohol-related fatal crashes happen during the summer. These are real people with real names, our families, friends and neighbors.
As we head into Labor Day, Texas will once again pump up the number of law enforcement officers on the road as part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) coordinated nationwide impaired driving crackdown. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is warning people about the increased enforcement weekend with an awareness campaign entitled “Drink. Drive. Go to Jail.”
The campaign’s goal is to convince drivers to choose a sober ride home or face the legal consequences. There are billboards, TV and radio ads, and even a simulated mobile jail cell touring the state. People at public events can step into the simulated jail, get their mug shot taken and share it on social media. The concept is that Texans experience a simulated jail now, so they’ll never want to go to an actual jail. Extreme? Yes. TxDOT will go to all sorts of extremes to stop drinking and driving.
If you are serious about your commitment to choosing a sober ride home, text SAVE to 77000. Texans who make the pledge are entered to win a donated Honda Ruckus scooter and helmet.
Seven people died in alcohol-related crashes last year during the Labor Day holiday period in Texas. The fatality numbers for the previous seven Labor Day holiday periods were all in double digits. More alcohol-related crashes occur between 2 a.m. and 2:59 a.m. than in any other hour of the day, and more crashes happen on Saturday than on any other day of the week. Texans are figuring out that it costs a lot — up to $17,000 in fees and fines — if you get caught drinking and driving. Let’s make the 2012 Labor Day Holiday deaths and crashes due to alcohol number zero. Let’s be that safe state.
Phil Wilson is Executive Director of the Texas Department of Transportation.