TxDOT hopes for Labor Day free of drunken drivers

Baylor theater students dress up on Wednesday to demonstrate various excuses drunk drivers give to police when pulled over as part of a drunken driving presentation hosted by the TxDOT at the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.
Matt Hellman | Lariat Photo Editor

By Brittney Coulter

The Texas Department of Transportation partnered with local law enforcement officers and representatives from the Tawny Martin Memorial Foundation to publicize their annual “Drink, Drive, Go To Jail” campaign Wednesday morning at the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. The presentation focused on keeping drunken drivers off the road.

Since the beginning of this month and continuing through Labor Day, law enforcement agencies here in Central Texas and across the state will be focused on making arrests and taking drunk drivers off the roads and streets of this state,” said Richard Skopik, the Waco District Engineer for the Department of Transportation and a speaker at the event.

Skopik went on to say that Texas has one of the highest rates of drunken driving-related crashes and fatalities in the nation.

“In 2010 alone, 1,057 people died in alcohol-related crashes in Texas,” he said. “Alcohol was a factor in more than one-third of all traffic fatalities last year.”

These statistics have motivated the Texas Department of Transportation to educate drivers about the dangers of drunken driving through public education campaigns over the Internet, radio and television.

“Our hope is that we can convince people to make the responsible choice and plan ahead before getting behind the wheel of a vehicle if they’ve had anything to drink,” Skopik said.

Students from Baylor’s department of theater arts were also involved in the presentation. Dressed as prison inmates, they held placards that stated common excuses that impaired drivers give law enforcement officers, such as “I’m okay to drive,” or “I’m only a couple of blocks from my house.”

Trooper D.L. Wilson, a safety and education officer for TxDOT, said the excuses are not enough.

“All the excuses we hear, they don’t protect the person from getting stopped,” Wilson said. ”And they do not help the victims that are involved in a car crash.”

Roy Martin, founder of the Tawny Martin Memorial Foundation, and his son Noah, tugged at the heartstrings of viewers with his story. After Martin lost his daughter, Tawny, in a drunk driving accident, he started the foundation with his son. Since then they have made it their mission to educate young people on the dangers of drinking and driving.

Steve Fallon, director of the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, ended the presentation on a positive note, with the hopes that a safe holiday weekend will follow the presentation. “We hope that this is the safest Labor Day weekend we’ve ever had,” Fallon said.