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New Year's Eve DWI arrests low in Collin County
Bill Conrad / Staff photos -- Plano PD sent a vehicle marked half like a police cruiser and half like a taxicab to various drinking establishments Monday night to remind New Year's Eve partygoers of the consequences of drunk driving. The department reported only four DWI arrests that night and Tuesday morning.
Drunk driving arrests were relatively low this New Year's Eve, with only four arrests being reported in Plano and one each coming from Allen and McKinney.
Two of the Plano arrests occurred before midnight, with one of the arrestees having a blood alcohol content of 0.15 or higher and the other facing at least their third DWI charge. One of the two drivers arrested after midnight had a blood alcohol content of 0.15 or higher.
Officer David Tilley, Plano PD spokesman, said the department was not only pleased with its low arrest numbers but the fact that no alcohol-related crashes were reported in the city.
"[Four arrests] is a pretty low number considering the number of officers we actually had on the streets doing enforcement for DWI," Tilley said.
National and local drunk driving awareness campaigns likely helped make more people aware of the dangers of impaired driving, therefore lowering numbers in Plano and other North Texas cities, Tilley said.
"We believe that people made the right decisions," he said. "They either got a designated driver or they called a cab or they pre-planned. ... I think more people are actually getting on board and understanding the dangers of drunk driving."
One such initiative launched by Plano PD this year was Choose Your Ride, a program in which a vehicle painted half like a Plano PD cruiser and half like a taxicab was taken to various drinking establishments on New Year's Eve.
"The goal is, if somebody walks out of a bar, and maybe they've had too much to drink, that they see this car," Tilley said, adding that it was not used for enforcement purposes or to offer rides. "This car is not only a reminder to them of police and the bad things that can happen if they get out there and drive, but it's also a reminder of the option: That they can call a cab and make the right choice to get home."
Deputy Chief Joe Ellenburg of McKinney PD said this year's lone alcohol-related offense could be indicative of increased public awareness, as the city's police force typically encounters a higher number of such offenders on New Year's Eve.
"I'd like to say it's public awareness working, but it was really cold and foggy that night, too, so I think a lot of people stayed in who had plans," he said. "When it's bad weather, it seem like there are less people on the road."
Regardless of past trends, Ellenburg said the department also makes sure there is enough manpower, both among its traffic and patrol divisions, who pay particular attention to local bars and roadways in search of intoxicated drivers.
The fact that this year's celebration fell on a weekday was also more than likely a factor, Ellenburg said.
"When the weather is pretty and nice, or when the holiday falls on a weekend, that's different," he said. "With this one, everyone went back to work on Monday and worked all day."
Tilley said one initiative that has helped enforcement year-round has been its no-refusal policy, in which the department has a judge and phlebotomist on call 365 days a year to secure blood draws from suspected drunk drivers. Of the 10 fatality crashes occurring in 2012, four have been confirmed through blood testing to be alcohol related, and testing is still underway for two other cases suspected to involve alcohol.
"This has been so successful, we're actually saving our taxpayers money because fewer of our DWI cases are going to trial," Tilley said. "... We're getting people to plead out on their cases. When you've got blood and blood alcohol content, it's tough to beat that in a court of law."
The Collin County Sheriff's Office reported no DWI arrests on New Year's Eve. Arrest information was not available from the Texas Department of Public Safety as of press time.
Staff writer Kelley Chambers contributed to this story.