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.
The investigation determined one zone along I-35E in Lewisville is among the areas where alcohol related crashes occur more frequently, specifically in zip code 75067.
Data revealed that in 2011 and 2012 combined there were at least 176 alcohol-related crashes in that 75067 zip code. Many of the crashes were clustered near I-35E and the Sam Rayburn Tollway and near I-35E and Business state Highway 121.
To get those numbers NBC 5 Investigates obtained TxDOT’s database of all statewide crash reports for 2011 and 2012 and zeroed in on all crashes where an officer indicated a driver that had been drinking or an intoxicated driver contributed to causing the crash.
TxDOT uses the same methods to generate a yearly report of alcohol-related crashes by city. NBC 5 Investigates went a step further, taking the information down to the neighborhood level. Almost 90 percent of all alcohol-related crash reports over the last two years include GPS coordinates, pinpointing the crash location. Using those coordinates, NBC 5 Investigates plotted the crashes on a map allowing us to see zip codes with higher concentrations of alcohol-related crashes.
For example, the 75240 zip code in Dallas had a least 167 crashes in two years. Those collisions were mostly clustered along I-635 just east of the Dallas North Tollway.
The Dallas Police Department told NBC 5 Investigates they are aware of problems there and are focusing DWI efforts on that zone.
In Lewisville, Erin Causey witnessed one of the worst drunk driving crashes along I-35 back in 2010.
Causey was driving home on I-35 when she saw a speeding driver crash into a car carrying a family of five. Autumn Caudle, 13, and her mother, 33-year-old Kandace Hull, were killed in the crash. Hull's husband and two other children survived. Causey held one of the girl's hands until rescuers arrived.
The driver of the speeding car was found to have been travelling more than 130 miles per hour at the time of the crash, and was convicted of murder and intoxication assault.
“The things you see on TV and in movies, it doesn’t prepare you,” said Causey.
Lewisville police told NBC 5 Investigates they knew I-35 was their biggest challenge, but had never seen all of the alcohol-related crashes in their city broken down and mapped out by zip code.
Police said they already heavily patrol the I-35 corridor looking for intoxicated drivers.
“We’ve got two full-time DWI officers. Anytime we have increased manpower on patrol we assign them to DWI enforcement,” said Capt. Kevin Deaver, with the Lewisville Police Department.
Lewisville’s DWI officers already work six nights a week.
On a recent Friday night, NBC 5 Investigates rode along with Lewisville police officer Chris Clements. By 8 p.m. he already had a report of a crash involving a suspected drunk driver. Last year, Clements personally made 130 DWI-related arrests. As a department, Lewisville police made 736 arrests last year.
Lewisville police are now considering more ways to target the hot spots NBC 5 Investigates pinpointed.
“We’ll take the information and look at it and the traffic sergeant will evaluate it,” said Deaver.
The Denton County District Attorney’s office also plans to share the data with other police departments in the county.
“It’s certainly helpful to actually see, you know, individual dots upon dots on a map. Yeah, it’s very telling,” said investigator Brent Robbins, with the Denton County District Attorney’s Office.
Investigators with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission have expressed interest in the zip code maps as well.
“We can combine that with new information, other forms of information and make it even more effective,” said Lt. John Graham, with the TABC.
The TABC believes it could help them zero in on bars over-serving people in or near those crash zones.
“I’d like to follow up with you at a later date and confirm some of the things that we’re able to do with it,” said Graham.
The hot zone map created using the data obtained by NBC 5 can be seen below:
Mothers Against Drunk Driving thinks the maps could also help people make informed decisions about where to drive.
“It helps so the average person can know areas to avoid, possibly, because those may be danger zones for them,” said MADD Executive Director, Jeff Miracle.
Police can’t do it alone. Ultimately, alcohol-related crashes come down to personal decisions that can ultimately end lives and change the lives of others forever.
“It’s hard. It’s hard. I’ll never forget it. It’s an image you can’t get out of your head, for sure,” said Causey.
To learn more about the methodology behind how we pinpointed alcohol-related hot spots, read this article.
Monday night at 10 p.m., NBC 5 Investigates will debut a map showing alcohol-related crash data for the entire state and also reveal how one of the biggest alcohol related crash zones in North Texas happens to be in one of the area's largest entertainment districts.