Houston's DWI Crackdown

Harris County consistently ranks at the top of the list for drunk driving offenses per capita. The city of Houston is working with Mothers Against Drunk Driving to bring those stats down. It means more education and more equipment for police. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports.

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The city of Houston only has two intoxilizer facilities to test drunk driving suspects. HPD Officer Paul Lassalle works with the DWI task force. He says having only two locations doesn't work.

"You are looking at time driving, you're looking at time waiting in line to have your suspect processed, given an opportunity to submit a specimen for analysis and the entire time the evidence is depleting."

Lassalle says the Houston and Harris County will be getting vans to station around the region. Officers will be able to process suspects faster and get back into service. New initiatives to crack down on drunk driving were talked about at the Mothers Against Drunk Driving Summit. CEO Chuck Hurley says judges in Texas are not enforcing laws requiring the use of technology to deter drunk driving. One technology is the interlock system.

"It's essentially a breath tester connected to the ignition you have to blow into it in order for the car to start. If you are violating probation after drinking the car won't start. That's the magic of it. The main reason why drunk drivers continue to drive in Texas is because they can."

Under Texas law, second offenders are supposed to have interlocks placed on their vehicles. Hurley says according to their numbers only 14 percent of judges are enforcing that law. Houston Mayor Bill White says education will be part of the city's campaign to deter drunk driving.

"I'm here to say that I will shepherd through City Council a $70,000 grant to MADD that will allow us to go into our high schools and ... young people gather and present a program using modern technology tailored to the audience to let people know the consequences."

White encouraged the group gathered to chart their progress to show that programs make a difference on the drunk driving numbers in the Houston area.

"If we can get off the list of the fattest city and drop from 1 to 3 to 5 to 7 to where we are now where we are going to drop off the list, then for something even more important, preserving the lives of people who just want to get from place to place on the highway and on the streets and roads without having their lives at risk we can certainly do it if we put our minds to it for drunk driving."

Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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Capella Tucker

Director of Content

Capella Tucker joined KUHF in the spring of 1994 as a part-time reporter. She quickly gained a full-time position when she took over production duties for

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