An NBC 5 investigation reveals more danger zones in North Texas for alcohol-related crashes in two Arlington zip codes.
NBC 5 Investigates spent seven months analyzing statewide data obtained from The Texas Department of Transportation to pinpoint crash zones where people are more likely to be hit by a driver who’s been drinking.
In addition to the areas found in Dallas and Lewisville, the investigation found the Arlington zip codes 76010 and 76011 were among the DFW area zip codes that had a higher numbers of crashes where a police officer found a driver had been drinking or an intoxicated driver contributed to the crash.
TxDOT stats show there were at least 327 alcohol-related crashes in the two zip codes combined in 2011 and 2012. The area includes busy parts of Interstate 30 and state Highway 360, a lot of bars and restaurants as well as Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and AT&T Stadium.
Richard Alpert, Tarrant County’s top DWI prosecutor, said cases he’s handled have shown him the stadium entertainment area sometimes presents a bad combination of booze mixed with crowded roads.
“If their driving is impaired, they are competing with a speedway worth of drivers that are all heading out at the same time. And I just think it's a recipe for disaster and I think the stadiums need to do more about that,” said Alpert.
Investigators with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission said they have not had many problems with the stadiums over-serving patrons, but TABC does not monitor tailgating in the parking lots.
After seeing the NBC 5 Investigates crash data, the TABC plans to look more closely at the area to try and pinpoint sources of problems.
“It's another one of those things where we'll give it to our analyst and have them break it down even further and give them the data you've given us as well,” said Lt. John Graham, with the TABC Enforcement Division.
Arlington police told NBC 5 Investigates they believe the stadiums are some of the most responsible alcohol servers in the entertainment district.
The Rangers and Cowboys said their staff members and vendors monitor alcohol sales and consumption in the stands. They help police monitor the parking lots, train staff to cut-off patrons who’ve have too much to drink and urge fans to use designated drivers.
“One accident is more than anyone wants to have. Certainly that's something we work hard to try to prevent, in terms of what we can do here in the ballpark,” said Rob Matwick, Texas Rangers vice president.
“We're always open to new ideas and new concepts and we'll continue to explore those ideas and we're always open to change. We certainly don't want to paint ourselves in a corner or think we've got the problem licked, we want to continue to do things to make it safer and even better,” said Brett Daniels, Dallas Cowboys spokesman.
The state crash data does not specify where people were drinking before the crash. However, when Arlington police arrest people for a DWI or public intoxication, they ask.
Arlington police records show Rangers Ballpark and AT&T Stadium are in the city’s top ten locations where people had their last drink before they were arrested, but so are other area bars.
And, the majority of people arrested said they were drinking at their house, a friend’s house or they refused to say.
On Sept. 1, 2011, Tina Reese’s son TJ was killed when a suspected drunken driver hit her car. She had just picked up her son from day care. Reese’s day care and residence are in a zip code outside of the hot zone and they were only a few blocks from home when the crash took place.
Reese said there’s nothing in the world that could have prepared for going through her son’s death.
“They let me hold him, and kiss him,” Reese said. “I think it's the worst thing that can happen to a parent.”
Reese hopes police can use the crash data to do even more to focus on problem spots. Mothers Against Drunk Driving agrees.
“I would just say, whatever resources they have, to pool those together to concentrate on those areas to make them safer for folks to drive,” said MADD executive director, Jeff Miracle.
Police records show 62 percent of Arlington’s fatal crashes involved alcohol.
Arlington police declined requests for an on-camera interview. In an email, the department said,
“We are always committed to reducing alcohol-related injuries and deaths, as this issue affects every community,” said Lt. Christopher Cook, with the Arlington Police Department.
The department said it’s already producing monthly citywide hot-spot maps that track top DWI crash locations. They’re also increasing the use of a DWI task force and running public service campaigns.
The hot zone map created using the data obtained by NBC 5 can be seen below:
Meanwhile, an Arlington police spokesperson said the city will continue to lobby the state to allow them to conduct sobriety checkpoints. Texas is currently one of 12 states that disallow the practice, but Alpert said they’re the best solution to catching drunken drivers.
“That's the only way to deal with the problem. You can't do this with roving police officers. There's just no way to do that. Cause the people they're looking for are roving as well,” said Alpert.
Steve Laird is a lawyer in Tarrant County that represents families of drunken driving crash victims. He believes every city should do more to figure out where people are being over served; even if it means asking tough questions about popular entertainment zones.
“Is this a question that doesn't want to be asked, because some people may be afraid of the answer?" said Laird.
They are questions that, if asked, might prevent another heartbreaking loss like the one suffered by Tina Reese.
“I don't know. I just miss him. It's very empty without him. I hear the kids go to school and he's not there anymore,” said Reese, of her deceased son TJ.