Program targets drunken driving

Allison Harris

About 6 percent of the 25,000 drunken driving accidents in Texas last year occurred the same day a Texas football team was playing, and the Texas Department of Transportation was on campus Saturday to discourage post-game DWIs.

The department positioned a truck outside Gate 25 of Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Saturday, which processes many student tickets, as part of a campaign to spread awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving on football game days. About 40 people stopped to take pictures at the truck, which featured a mock living room with six people watching a game and two cutouts of football players taking keys outside the truck.

The truck has been traveling to different locations in the state during the college and professional football seasons since last year. The campaign also includes radio and television advertisements.

Terry Pence, Texas Department of Transportation traffic safety director, said Texas leads the nation in the number of alcohol-related crashes and fatal accidents.

“A lot of times people get into situations when they’re tailgating or watching a game for multiple hours, and they’re not paying attention to the amount of alcohol that they’re consuming because they’re sitting there having a good time, visiting with friends and family,” Pence said.

Pence said people should plan ahead to have a designated driver if they want to drink. He also advised sober people to take keys from impaired friends and make sure they get home safely.

Samantha Traeger, student co-chair of ATX Rides, said the organization began offering free rides to and from downtown in fall 2010. Typically, 40 to 50 volunteers from four Christian ministries drive people from two West Campus pick-up locations two Fridays a month and take them home later from a stop downtown. They serve an average of 300 to 400 people each night. Traeger said the members are invested in the safety of campus, which drunken driving threatens.

“We never want to see our friends, our peers or classmates in a situation where they’ve experienced a major negative consequence from drunk driving,” Traeger said.

Traeger said sometimes people’s plans to have designated drivers can fall through, but ATX Rides can provide a backup.

“Many times, that is their plan, but as they go downtown, they lose their plan more and more,” Traeger said. “I just think it’s always good to have familiarity with pickup locations for other designated drivers.”

Houston Army recruiter Joe Batten said he didn’t think the campaign would actually stop anyone from drinking and driving.

“People who drink and drive are generally irresponsible anyway,” Batten said. “They’re not going to care about what this little thing says. They know what they’re doing is wrong anyway.”