Crime

The dangers of New Year’s Eve: DWIs, Uber impostors and fireworks

Fort Worth police and officers from other cities will be out in force this weekend looking for people who are driving drunk.
Fort Worth police and officers from other cities will be out in force this weekend looking for people who are driving drunk. Star-Telegram archives

A new year is not a happy one if you’re in jail or hurt.

So if you’re planning on getting loaded this New Year’s Eve, don’t drive. But be careful whom you choose to ride with. And if fireworks are on your to-do list, be smart and follow the rules.

Law officers will be out in full force across Texas looking for drunken drivers on what many call “amateur night” for drinkers.

The Texas Department of Public Safety keeps a close watch for drivers who are drunk — or simply driving dangerous — especially on Saturday and Sunday.

“Impaired driving or reckless behavior on the road can turn holiday celebrations into tragedies, and these DPS patrols are designed to help save lives by identifying drivers who disregard the law and endanger others,” DPS Director Steven McCraw said in a news release.

There were 960 alcohol-related traffic fatalities — out of 3,531 total traffic deaths — in Texas in 2015, including 11 in Collin County, 83 in Dallas County, six in Denton County, 10 in Johnson County, five in Parker County and 37 in Tarrant County, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

During last year’s eight-day Christmas/New Year’s holiday enforcement period, DPS troopers made 466 DWI arrests.

No refusal in play this weekend

Many local law enforcement agencies will be participating in no-refusal operations in which people arrested on suspicion of DWI will be offered a blood test only.

If a person refuses to take a blood test, officers will obtain an immediate warrant from a judge to obtain a blood sample.

Forty-six DWI cases were filed with the Tarrant County district attorney’s office in January during no-refusal efforts throughout Christmas and New Year’s in 2015-16, officials said. Of those, nine drivers tested at twice the legal limit and two tested three times the legal limit or above.

“Once again, Tarrant County law enforcement agencies are conducting a no-refusal enforcement for drunk drivers,” prosecutor Kacey Fickes said in an email. “We want to encourage responsible behavior this weekend and ask that our citizens make plans for transportation as they enjoy the holiday. A trip to jail is a terrible way to ring in the new year.”

Beware of ride-hailing impostors

Police in North Texas want to make sure you get home safe on New Year’s Eve, and one relatively new danger includes ride-hailing impostors posing as your Uber or Lyft driver.

Ride-hailing apps have become a major transportation option for many, and they give residents a safe, sober ride home, as long as you get in the right car.

Impostors have reportedly picked up riders and robbed them, assaulted them and more. They hang around popular pickup spots and hope someone mistakes their car for the ride they requested. Last year, TCU police alerted the campus that a man posing as an Uber driver “initiated inappropriate conversations” with two female students.

Uber and Lyft have released statements saying, in part, that riders should double-check the car, license plate and driver, especially in crowded areas.

Be smart, careful with fireworks

Fireworks are always popular when ringing in the New Year, but they’re also dangerous. At least 11 people died in the United States last year while shooting fireworks, and another 11,900 were treated at hospitals, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Here are a couple of laws worth noting:

▪ It’s against the law to shoot fireworks inside the city limits of every city in Tarrant County. It’s legal to shoot in unincorporated parts of the county, but only on your own property or if you have another landowner’s permission.

▪ In Fort Worth it is illegal to possess or shoot fireworks within the city limits; also, it is illegal in unincorporated Tarrant County, to shoot fireworks within 5,000 feet of the city limits. Arlington’s distance for shooting near the city limits is 2,000 feet.

Staff writers Mitch Mitchell, Mark Smith and Lee Williams contributed to this report, which includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Lee Williams: 817-390-7840, @leewatson

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