This week Anna and Melissa residents can expect to see more law enforcement officers patrolling roads and highways, looking for drivers who are driving while intoxicated.
“With our growth and the growth of North Texas alone, we’ve seen an increase in traffic accidents and fatalities on our roadways,” Anna Police Lt. Jeff Caponera said. “Not specifically related to alcohol but just for the sheer volume. We’ve partnered with TxDOT through their grant program and we are running now a DWI enforcement program which targets DWI drivers to help reduce the number of traffic accidents and fatalities that occur during the holiday season.”
The Texas Department of Transportation awarded Anna PD a $5,300 grant that will pay officers overtime and allow them to increase patrols during the December holiday, Independence Day, Spring Break, and Labor Day.
Those dates are peak DWI enforcement times Caponera said. The December holiday runs Dec. 15 through Jan. 1, and that is when law enforcement officers in every branch will be increasing patrols.
“With this grant it really helps us tremendously by being able to get out there and hopefully make a difference in our traffic accidents and fatalities,” he said.
This is the first time Anna PD has been eligible to receive the grant, because previously there was not enough traffic in the area to qualify. In previous years, Caponera said the department had to allocate a yearly number of overtime hours in the budget, this year they didn’t have to do that.
Melissa Police will also be patrolling, looking for drivers who are inebriated, on Highway 5, 75, and 121.
“There will be an increased presence of law enforcement, state police,” Melissa Police Capt. Kyle Babcock said. “In our agency it will be done through our uniform patrol division as part of their normal duties, but they will be focusing more on apprehending impaired drivers as we move through the holiday season.”
Babcock recommends people avoid driving during the peak DWI hours of midnight to 2 a.m.
“A lot of driving while intoxicated offenses obviously occur in later hours,” he said. “ … You know more so around 2 a.m. and so forth. And so I would say not being on the road you know during the later hours unless absolutely necessary would be beneficial.”
The reason for the uptick in driving while intoxicated is because of holiday events and parties, Babcock said. The week leading up to Christmas is a time when people get off work, college students are home, and families are celebrating. Combine those activities with alcohol and there’s potential for people to over indulge and get behind the wheel.
“Even with one drink, judgment is impaired, reaction times reduces,” Babcock said. “We strongly encourage the use of designated drivers that have nothing to drink during the holiday season if people are going to go out and celebrate.”
Caponera echoed that advice.
“Be responsible if you’re going to drink,” he said. “Have a designated driver, plan ahead. That’s the best thing you can do. If you know that you’re going to go out and drink plan for that because your first time DWI is expensive. Multiple DWIs are really expensive and no matter what the cost it’s life altering, especially if you kill somebody.”
According to TxDOT’s website, a person who is convicted of a DWI offense the first time faces a fine up to $2,000, 3-180 days in jail, loss of driver’s license, and an annual fee of $2,000 for three years to retain a driver’s license.
If someone gets a second DWI conviction they could pay up to $4,000, stay in jail from 1 month to a year, lose their driver’s license for a year, and have to pay an annual fee to retain their license once their out of prison.
The fees only go up for a third offense, and if a driver or passenger are pulled over and an open alcohol container is found, both could face a fine of $500, regardless of blood-alcohol level.
This holiday season police officers are reminding the public to plan ahead.
“You know there’s numerous other options available to you if you don’t have a designated driver,” Caponera said. “You can stay at the house where you’re at, stay at a hotel, make plans with an Uber, with a taxi, public transportation.”