New Traffic Signs Bring Attention to DWI Dangers

New traffic signs are going up along I-45 in Montgomery County. The signs show pictures of crumpled vehicles and warn of the dangers of drunk driving. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson has more.

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Bright red and yellow signs with pictures of badly wrecked cars are grabbing attention along Interstate 45. The signs warn drivers that four DWI-related deaths and 63 accidents occurred in 2006 on this stretch of road in Montgomery County. Lt. Dan Norris with the Montgomery County Sheriff's office says the signs are designed to have a shock factor.

"Not only are they information about warning and trying to educate the public, it's also encouraging drivers to call 9-1-1 is they see a drunk driver. At the very bottom of the sign it says 'Report drunk driving: Dial 9-1-1.' It's a real simple concept: if you're driving with a buzz, you're driving impaired and that won't be tolerated in Montgomery County."

Houston drivers may have noticed similar signs -- one near the intersection of 59 South and the 610 Loop and another on the northbound side of 59 at Gessner. The signage is a public education program by the Texas Department of Transportation. TXDOT Traffic Safety Specialist Garry Rand says they first tested the signs on FM 1960.

"We kept the sign out there for a period of about a year and during that year we had no DWI-related fatalities. And so we thought we'll work with Harris County Sheriffs, Montgomery County Sheriffs, DPS, all the major players in law enforcement to help us gather these priority roadways where these are occurring."

Harris County is number one in the nation for DWI-related fatalities -- a number one spot that no one envies. Harris and Montgomery Counties are the only places where the signs are displayed. Local TXDOT officials are tracking the effect of the signage to see if the idea should be duplicated in other areas. And Lt. Norris says because of the rapidly growing population in both counties, it can be hard to tell exactly how much of a difference the signs make.

"If it can just save one life or save one crash or take one drunk driver off the road, then they are worth that effort."

Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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