Harris County law enforcement officers arrested 347 people for driving drunk in the final days of 2018, according to the Harris County District Attorney's Office.
"It's a sad commentary on our community right now," said Harris County Vehicular Crimes Prosecutor Sean Teare. "We are in the midst of a public health crisis."
The arrests were made between December 26 and January 1, a period when a lot of people didn't have to go to work. Teare thinks the extended holiday period a lot to do with high numbers.
"You had really a five-to-six day binge-worthy holiday season," he said. "There were no breaks. There was a lot of time sadly for people to drink and get behind the wheel."
During that period there were two alcohol-related fatality crashes. A 44-year-old woman was killed in a crash around 1:30 AM New Year's Day on the North Freeway Frontage Road at Burress Street. Twenty-six-year-old Carlos Salazar-Roque is now charged in that case.
On New Year's Eve, 11-year-old Vanessa Ledezma died in a crash at Highway 90 and Beltway 8. Her father, 33-year-old Jorge Ledezma Echavarria, is charged with murder. Teare said they upgraded the charge because Echavarria was also committing the felony offense of driving drunk with a child passenger.
With one of the highest DWI fatality rates in the country, Teare said drunk driving isn’t just a problem during the holidays. They have to deal with it year-round.
"We do it nightly in that we're on the scene of these tragic cases," said Teare. "It takes a toll on the first responders, on the EMS people, on the fire department, on our police officers, on our prosecutors that go to the scene. The ripple effect on these cases is everywhere."
#HCSO Vehicular Crimes investigators have charged Jorge Ledezma with murder after operating a vehicle while intoxicated and causing a fatality accident that claimed his daughter's life — full release: https://t.co/4B7s46bZye #HouNews pic.twitter.com/j7N2RL20SD
— HCSOTexas (@HCSOTexas) January 2, 2019