Celebrate safely on New Year's Eve
Law enforcement officials will be out looking for drunken drivers as Houstonians ring in the new year.
Thousands of people will head out to Discovery Green in downtown Houston. There will be fireworks at midnight, but there are many family-friendly activities throughout the evening.
From 7 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., there will be dancers, a kids' confetti countdown and a disco for the little ones. KC & The Sunshine Band will perform.
Police said they want people to dance the night away with family and friends, not cry the night away behind bars.
The Harris County District Attorney's Office's no-refusal program is still going on. Drivers suspected of being intoxicated will be subject to a search warrant and mandatory blood draw if they refuse a blood test.
Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia said county prosecutors will be working with his deputies and other law enforcement agencies to file charges against drivers who don't pass the test.
"You can lose your job, you can hurt your family, you can hurt someone else and all with having regret of having gone to jail or worse, having killed someone," Garcia said. "Don't risk it."
Since the no-refusal program began several years ago, driving while intoxicated arrests have gone up.
"We make driver arrests every year," Harris County Precinct 4 Chief Deputy Mark Herman said. "Taking one or two off the street is great. Last year, we arrested close to 30 for DWI. That's taking impaired drivers off the street and making our community safer."
One area that will get special scrutiny is the F.M. 1960 area between Interstate 45 and state Highway 249. Investigators said the large concentration of bars in that area creates a high amount of risk.
Houston police said one of the most dangerous intersections on New Year's Eve is South Main at the South Loop. Officers said they make many DWI arrests there.
According to the Harris County and Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Harris County leads the nation in drunk-driving deaths per capita. The total number of deaths in 2011 was 85, and deputies are estimating that number to drop to 48 in 2012.
METRO and AAA are offering ways for people to get home without getting behind the wheel of a vehicle.
METRO is offering free rides on buses from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. Tuesday. METRORail rides are also free from 6 p.m. until 2 a.m. Tuesday. METRO is running a normal schedule on Monday but is running a Sunday schedule on Tuesday.
AAA is offering it's free Tipsy Tow service from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Tuesday. Drivers, bartenders, restaurant managers, party hosts or passengers of a drinking driver can call 800-AAA-HELP for a free tow home, up to 10 miles. For trips farther than 10 miles, drivers should expect to pay the rate charged by the tow truck contractor.
Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos reminded drivers it is much cheaper to take a cab than fight a DWI charge. The average round-trip cab ride is about $70. The average DWI cases costs a defendant about $10,000 in legal fees.
Unfortunately, New Year's Eve is expected to be soggy. There's an 80 percent chance of rain at midnight.
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