ARLINGTON -- Tina Reese's home used to be filled with the sounds of her 10-year-old son's life. But since Tavian "T.J." Sabur was taken from her by a suspected drunken driver in early September, the constant quiet has been a painful reminder of his absence.
On Wednesday, Reese, who was seriously injured in the Sept. 1 crash, appeared at a news conference alongside Arlington police officials to plead with the public to not drink and drive.
"If you're going to drink, call someone," Reese said. "Call a designated driver. Call a taxi. Just call someone."
In one recent month, seven young adults died in two crashes that police believe were alcohol-related, continuing a year that has seen 33 traffic fatalities in the city so far.
In response, the Arlington Police Department started a DWI task force Oct. 31 that involves more officers patrolling the highways and other heavily traveled roads in the city. Bar checks are also being stepped up in the hope of preventing intoxicated people from getting behind the wheel.
The effort includes a no-refusal strategy to seek warrants for blood samples from suspected drunken drivers who refuse a breath test.
In the first week, officers made 31 arrests for DWI and five for public intoxication, conducted 34 bar checks and obtained eight blood search warrants, the department said. The effort will continue through Jan. 1.
'It changed our lives'
Reese and her son, a fifth-grader at Cross Timbers Intermediate School, were three blocks from home at about 6 p.m. Sept. 1 when the crash occurred. An SUV driven by Walter Tendai Chidyausiku ran a stop sign at Nathan Lowe Road and Petra Drive in south Arlington and broadsided their Honda Accord, police said.
"I pulled up to the four-way stop and checked for other cars," Reese said. "That's about all I remember."
She briefly regained consciousness and searched the crumpled vehicle for her son.
"He was still in the back seat, in his usual spot," she said through tears. "He was still strapped in. But he was unconscious, and he was bleeding from the mouth."
Reese was taken to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. T.J. was taken first to an Arlington hospital and then to Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth. Hours later, Reese was taken to his bedside.
"He had too many internal injuries," she said. "He couldn't breathe on his own. They took him off the respirator, and I was there to kiss him and hold him."
Reese would spend six weeks in the hospital. She is still unable to return to work.
Her college-age daughter had to leave school in Indianapolis to arrange her brother's funeral.
"It changed our lives forever," Reese said. "Maybe we can save at least one family from having to go through this pain."
7 more deaths
Chidyausiku, who was not seriously injured, has been charged with intoxication manslaughter and intoxication assault, records show.
In the weeks after that crash, seven more young people were killed in what police are investigating as alcohol-related one-vehicle crashes.
Three teenagers died Sept. 10 on West Green Oaks Boulevard near Arkansas Lane. The BMW caught fire, trapping all but one occupant, who crawled out and survived.
Four young adults, including 21-year-old twin brothers, died after a crash Oct. 10. The Honda Accord hit a tree in front of Ferguson Junior High on Southeast Green Oaks Boulevard. A bottle of alcohol was recovered at the scene, police said.
The 33 total fatalities through Nov. 9 compare with 20 all of last year and 31 in 2009. Historically, about half of all traffic fatalities in the city and in Texas are alcohol- or drug-related, police said.
Officer Stacie Brown, who visits area high schools and colleges to speak on DWI awareness, said she has a simple message for students: "Make a decision on how you're going to get home before you ever leave your house. That way you're making the decision sober."
Patrick M. Walker,