Fort Worth police are making an extra effort to reduce the number of people killed in wrecks caused by drunken drivers.
Fort Worth nearly doubled the size of it’s driving while intoxicated unit, from six to 10 officers, at the start of 2017. Fort Worth police have also started a special unit to patrol the West 7th entertainment district and are awaiting funding for a new selective traffic enforcement program grant so the city can pay overtime for more nighttime enforcement, said Jim Pollazani, police spokesman.
The city also conducts periodic strategic radar enforcement details citywide, he said.
“We have an area [around Seventh Street] that is about two miles of nothing but bars,” Pollazani said. “Then there’s downtown and clubs like Billy Bob’s. There are 250 highway miles in Fort Worth, so we have a lot to cover.”
DWI arrests have increased and the number of fatalities have decreased in 2017 compared to last year. There have been 26 DWI-related fatality crashes in Fort Worth through mid-November, compared to 40 in 2016.
The Christmas and New Year holiday season is one of the deadliest periods of the year for motorists, said Ron Sylvan, executive director of North Texas Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
He said statewide, DWI-related fatalities continue to rise, Sylvan said.
“We appreciate all of the things law enforcement has done and we partner with law enforcement in a very big way to combat this issue,” Sylvan said. “But until we get the final statistics from 2017 I don’t know whether there will be a reduction or whether that reduction will be significant.”
From 2013 through 2016, DWI arrests in Fort Worth steadily declined. But so far this year, through Dec. 23, Fort Worth police have made 753 DWI arrests, compared to 526 in all of 2016.
In Arlington, which has a special DWI enforcement unit, police made 1,135 DWI arrests through Nov. 20. Last year, Arlington police made 1,334 DWI arrests.
While the number of deaths is down so far in 2017, the 40 people who died in DWI-related crashes in Fort Worth in 2016 was nearly an 18 percent increase when compared to 34 deaths in 2015, according to police department figures.
Statewide, 3,773 deaths were recorded in 2016 on Texas roadways, more than a 5 percent increase when compared to the 3,578 deaths recorded in 2015, according to Texas Department of Transportation figures.
No-refusal for drunk drivers
As is always the case in North Texas, law enforcement will be participating in no-refusal operations on New Year’s Eve.
During the enforcement period, people pulled over and 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.
Last year, during the six-day Christmas-New Year’s holiday, Texas Department of Public Safety troopers made 439 DWI arrests.
“The holidays are here, and as everyone begins to celebrate this special time of year, we are also asking Texans to be responsible and safe,” DPS Director Steven McGraw said in a statement.
One safe alternative in the DFW area is to use the Trinity Railway Express. The commuter rail will operate a special New Year’s Eve schedule between Union Station in Dallas and CentrePort/DFW Airport Station in east Fort Worth. The service is free. For times, go to trinityrailwayexpress.org.
And AAA Texas will offer a free community service called Tipsy Tow, which aims to keep drunken drivers off the road. The service will be available from 6 p.m. Sunday through 6 a.m. on Monday.
Drivers, bartenders, restaurant managers, party hosts or passengers of a driver who has been drinking may call 1-800-222-4357 or 1-800-AAA-HELP for a free tow home of up to 10 miles.
Fort Worth DWI-related fatalities, arrests
2013 - 36
2014 - 42
2015 - 34
2016 - 40
2017 - 26*
2013 - 652
2014 - 604
2015 - 552
2016 - 526
2017 - 753**
** Though Dec. 23, 2017