Stop Drunk Driving: Getting the Message to Teens

Last year Houston police responded to 234 fatal vehicle crashes. Half of them are alcohol-related. As Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports, the Harris County Hospital District is on a mission to reduce drunk driving, especially among teens.

The ambulance dock at Ben Taub General Hospital is a busy place. There's a mutilated sedan and a crushed police cruiser wedged against the curb. Hospital and police officials hope the damaged vehicles will serve as a visible reminder of the effects of drunk driving.

Robin Garza is the trauma program coordinator at the hospital.

"Harris County is one of the top counties in the nation when it comes to underage drinking and driving with injuries and fatalities from those decisions. So it's a huge problem in our community here in Harris County as well as the state, the state has pretty high statistics as well."

According to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, 67 percent of high school students will drink before they turn 21. In fact, just during Spring Break on just Crystal Beach near Galveston, police issued 200 citations to underage drinkers.

Garza says they try to make the dangers of drinking very real to students. Every year they stage mock drunk driving accidents in front of high schools. And she says the students are often stunned by the physical display.

"We've had kids that report to us through our post-surveys that they have changed their way of thinking. And we know we're not going to reach everyone in the school, we know that. But if we can get to one child and if one child changes their way of thinking then we've been successful. Because that one change of thought has potentially saved lives and saved injury."

This month the Houston Police Department will work with the TABC to conduct 100 minor sting operations. They're trying to catch both the minors and the adults who sell alcohol to them.

Laurie Johnson. Houston Public Radio News.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...