Drunken drivers beware.
Law officers will be out in force this holiday season and looking for such impaired drivers, officials from Tarrant and Dallas counties said Wednesday.
Prosecutors, police, deputies, medical personnel and politicians are all on the same page, said Richard Alpert, Tarrant County assistant district attorney. Those who get pulled over on suspicion of driving drunk will be taken off the streets, they will have their blood drawn even if they refuse to submit to a test, and they will be prosecuted, Alpert said.
Alpert said he expects more than 150 drunken driving arrests in Tarrant County during the holiday season. He said that if people really want to avoid becoming a statistic, they can follow his example.
“I’m not on the roads between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. during the holidays,” Alpert said at a news conference in Grand Prairie. “I leave those roads to the police.”
Most of the people officers expect to arrest are repeat offenders or will have blood-alcohol levels nearly twice the legal limit, which is 0.08, Alpert said.
Tarrant County Commisioner Andy Nguyen also cautioned motorists to designate a sober driver or stay at home during the holiday season.
“The holidays should be a time for rejoicing,” he said, “not for mourning.”
Grand Prairie Police Chief Steve Dye said those who get caught drinking and driving can expect to spend about $10,000 by the time they complete the court process.
“We are all paying for it,” Dye said. “Drunk driving costs an average insurance customer an additional $800 on their yearly insurance premium.”
Jason Derscheied, executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is the most dangerous time for those trying to avoid being involved in a collision with an impaired driver.
Near the end of the news conference, Tonya Winchester pulled her wheelchair up to the microphone and said a drunken driver cost her the use of much of her body. Almost a decade ago she was drinking with friends and handed her car keys to a friend who had been drinking but was confident she could drive.
The friend ran a stop sign and an 18-wheeler crashed into her jeep at 40 mph, said Winchester, now 27.
“I woke up two weeks later in a hospital unable to feel, speak or breathe,” Winchester said. “I broke my neck and was told that I would be paralyzed for the rest of my life.”
But that’s not what bothers her most, Winchester said.
“The hardest part of my injury is having to watch the people I love suffer through my decision with me,” she said. “Every decision we make has meaning. My message is to encourage you to think before any decision you make and be responsible.”