Cops On the Look-Out for Drunk Drivers in Northwest Harris County

It's not something to be proud of, but Harris County is the drunk-driving capital of the United States, with more alcohol-related deaths per capita than any other large county in America. As Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports, local law enforcement agencies are teaming-up overnight to stop some of those drunk drivers in northwest Harris County.

"Operation Rolling Lifeguard" starts at 6 PM tonight and includes about 30 extra law enforcement officers from the Tomball Police Department, HPD, DPS and the Harris County Sheriff's Department. They'll be looking for drunk drivers on Highway 249 from Beltway 8 to the Montgomery County line and FM 2920 from I-45 to 290. This is Harris County Sheriff Tommy Thomas.

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"In Harris County last year, 203 people were killed in alcohol-related traffic crashes. Of that, 147 were killed in drunk-driving crashes involving a driver with a blood-alcohol content of .08 or higher. Of the nearly 3.6 million people in Houston and Harris County, one in three of us will be directly involved in a drunk-driving crash at some point in our lives."

Officers will set-up a command center in Tomball and all share a common radio frequency overnight. The operation ends at 4 AM tomorrow. Tomball Police Chief Michael Blake says he hopes law enforcement can send a strong message tonight.

"This area of northwest Harris County does have a DWI issue. There are alcohol establishments. This is Texas. The state has done a number of things to try to reduce the blood-alcohol to .08 in order to try to stop impaired drivers and prevent them from hurting themselves or someone else."

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, even though Los Angeles County has three times as many people as Harris County, there are twice as many drunk-driving deaths here. MADD's Andrea Schmauss says she's happy to see law enforcement step-up.

"I think that the public needs to see that law enforcement is serious about working with us and combating the problem. They are our first-defense. If we can let the public be aware of the fact that law enforcement is going to be there, they're going to make arrests, they are going to be putting people in jail, then we've made a major step. It gets them to think twice about maybe getting behind the wheel."

According the MADD, nearly 13,000 people are killed every year in the United States by drunk drivers.

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