Arlington police

Law Enforcement Cracking Down on Drunken Drivers This Holiday Season

Local police agencies stepping up patrols to find drunken drivers between now and New Year's Day

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The holidays are a time of festive parties and celebrations.

But for families who have lost loved ones to drunken driving, it's a reminder for you to think twice before getting behind the wheel.

Nationally over the past several years, an average of 300 people die in drunk driving crashes the week between Christmas and New Year, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. In 2016, 781 people lost their lives in drunken-driving-related crashes in the month of December alone.

"It's just really sad seeing the shattered dreams really of these lives altered forever because someone made the decision they thought they were okay to drive," said Lt. Chris Cook with Arlington Police.

That's why the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign kicked off this weekend, running until the first week of January. This is the time that many law enforcement agencies make their highest amount of DUI arrests for the year, meaning that you will probably see more cops watching the roads.

That will be especially true in Arlington, where the police department is has one of the only DWI enforcement units in the area. They have eight police officers and a sergeant who all focus solely on finding drunken drivers in one of the busiest areas for entertainment with Texas Live, the sports stadiums, theme parks and the university.

"We have four major thoroughfares -- Highway 287, Highway 360, I-20 and I-30 -- and you have a lot of people coming here to have a good time," said Lt. Cook.

The department sends out a weekly map of hot spots for crashes so commanders and patrol units know exactly where to focus on in the city.

Here's exactly what police look for on the roads:

  • People who are weaving in and out of lanes
  • Aggressive driving
  • Sudden lane changes
  • Driving slow in areas with higher speed limits

APD said they hope people can keep an eye out and call 911 with a vehicle description or license plate if they see any of these things on the road.

"I will tell you the vast majority of DWI arrests come from citizens, being our eyes and ears. We have a ton of people who call 911," said Lt. Cook. "They're calling in and we need people to do that, especially at this time of year with the holidays when people are out and about."

For the past few months, Arlington PD has launched their new phlebotomy program, which goes beyond the breathalyzer test.

"We're going to go straight to the jail for a blood draw. We're going to ask for consent and if you refuse, we have to get a search warrant. And instead of going to a hospital like a lot of agencies have to do and have a nurse extract that blood, we have a phlebotomy kit on scene in our jail that really speeds up the process," said Lt. Cook.

That helps officers get back on the streets quicker as opposed to dedicating several hours to process that DUI case.

"That makes Arlington unique so that we're able to focus our resources in the right areas," said Lt. Cook.

Arlington Police said about half of their fatalities on the road are alcohol or drug related, or a combination of the two.

"A lot of times when we arrest a DWI offender, we ask them, 'Did you think you were OK to drive?' And in almost every case, they report back 'Yeah, I thought I was OK to drive.' And that's sad," said Lt. Cook.

Right now, police are also pushing for people to use the ride-share options like Uber and Lyft.

"At the end of the day, it's all about prevention. DWIs are the most preventable crime that we deal with. It always comes down to someone's decision," said Lt. Cook.

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