Drunk driving: Nacogdoches authorities say some aren't getting the message

By Holley Nees - bio | email

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) – Don't drink and drive is preached at every school holiday and spring break is no exception.

This time local officers are resorting to graphic images to get students to think ahead.

"I think it is an even more intense problem that right now we are seeing more DWIs with combination of alcohol and drugs than we've ever seen before," said First Assistant Nacogdoches County Attorney Paige Pattillo.

She prosecutes nearly 400 DWI cases a year in Nacogdoches County.

Maybe this time, gruesome photos will capture the students' attention.

"Broke my wife's neck," said Nacogdoches County Sheriff's Deputy Ben Curtis. "She had to have a halo screwed on her head and I've got a rod in my leg, plates in my arms, far too many injuries to even try to go into."

Nearly five years ago, Curtis had a head-on collision with a drunk driver. It's pictures of his wife's injuries that make SFA student Jordan Zeller sick.

"I felt like I was going to pass out," said Zeller. "They hear don't drink and drive, don't drink and drive, but they don't see like someone getting a screw screwed into her head."

The most recent data from the Texas Department of Transportation shows people driving under the influence is still a problem. In Nacogdoches County in 2009 one person died in an alcohol-related car crash and over in Angelina County, five people were killed that same year in alcohol-related crashes.

"Some kids no matter what you say aren't going to get the message across, so stating all this maybe getting an MIP is the only way to get someone to think about it," said SFA student Joey Gonsior.

Officers say designated driver programs are helping, but many choose to ignore the warnings.

"We can talk to a group of 100 and out of that 100 there may be 50 or 60 that they may listen to you, but oh that's not going to happen to me," said Nacogdoches Police Department Sgt. Keith Hawkins.

They'll keep preaching, hoping the consequences stick with at least one student.

"If I ever have a drink, I'll probably just see that image in my head," said Zeller. "I probably won't drink for awhile now, man it just took me away."

If you refuse a breathylizer test, officers can get a search warrant to take your blood.

Some East Texas advocacy groups are working to send a similar message through liquor stores.

The Alcohol and Drug Abuse Council of Deep East Texas is teaming up with The Coalition and Texans Standing Tall.

They want to raise taxes on alcohol. Pointing out, a tax on beer, wine, and spirits hasn't gone up in more than 20 years.

They argue it's a win, win situation and a $0.10 hike in tax would put millions of dollars into the general fund.

They said this would save Texans' jobs and deter underage drinking.

ADAC said more than 160 studies have proven a higher tax would slow underage drinking.

"Alcohol causes more problems than all other drugs combined and so we know that it's a gateway drug for young people at times to move to harder drugs," said ADAC Executive Director Phyllis Grandgeorge.

Taxing isn't popular, but Grandgeorge said it's technically a fair tax, because you have a choice if you want to pay it.

The group is having a hard time getting lawmakers to back the idea.

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