Press Release: Could it be that Harris County is finally on the way to losing its infamous title as the national leader in DWI-related traffic deaths per capita? DWI arrests made by Harris County Sheriff’s Office crime-fighters have risen every year for the last five years, indicating a concentrated effort to get drunken drivers off the streets. But this year the combined unincorporated areas where 1.5 million people live are on pace for the lowest total in at least five years for traffic fatalities caused by driving while intoxicated. There were 24 such cases from January through June of 2012. In the comparative six-month period, there were 48 in 2011, 27 in 2010, 38 in 2009 and 37 in 2008. More statistics are listed below. “Twenty-four deaths in the first six months of this year is 24 too many,” Sheriff Adrian Garcia said. “But the trend line is encouraging. Maybe the driving public is getting the message! If you drink and get the behind the wheel, not only will there be a good chance you will be caught and jailed, but you also may end up with the blood of innocents on your hands.” “So please avoid tragedy. If you drink, do it in moderation. If you’re intoxicated, get a ride from a sober driver or make other safe arrangements,” Garcia said. “There’s no room on the roadways of Harris County who recklessly endanger themselves and others. For those who do, we’ll always make room for them in the county jail.” The sheriff said he was proud of the agency’s patrol deputies and other officers who make communities safer by boosting the number of DWI arrests for five consecutive years despite a three-year county government freeze on law enforcement hiring. Now that the Sheriff’s Office has balanced its budget for the first time in six years (Sheriff Garcia took office in January 2009), it is hiring again and adding deputies to the patrol force. Court-ordered alcoholism intervention programs for DWI defendants and public education campaigns probably have helped increase awareness about the dangers of DWI, Sheriff Garcia said, “but our deputies patrolling the streets send the strongest message of all when they arrest drunk drivers and put them in jail. That’s where they sober up and wake up to the reality of now having a criminal record that will possibly affect them for the rest of their lives. “I hope the increase in arrests is part of what led to the decrease in DWI fatalities,” he added. “But that is no reason for us to become complacent. Intoxication will still be the road to incarceration.” DWI arrests by HCSO: 2008: 1,555 2009: 1,633 2010: 2,179 2011: 2,211 2012: 1,367 through June, on pace for 2,734 for the year DWI fatalities in HCSO patrol areas: 2008: 75 2009: 91 2010: 56 2011: 85 2012: 24 through June, on pace for 48 for the year