DUI Dangers, Part I

by Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

PERMIAN BASIN - For a night on the town, there's plenty to choose from in the Midland/Odessa area.

And with the oil industry booming, clubs and bars have stayed busier than ever.

But when the night's over, it's the choice afterward that is the most important, and the most costly.

"People locally, they don't plan that much, going 'oh I'm just going to be a mile from the house to the bar. You know, what could happen in a mile?' Lt. Brian Bogart with the Midland Police Department, said.

A lot can happen.

NewsWest 9 rode along with Lt. Bogart of the Midland Police Separtment, a few weeks ago.

He suspected a driver was under the influence, the sirens came on and a chase ensued. The young man bailed out of his vehicle into a neighborhood alley. It's just another nite on the job for those trying to keep the streets safe.

"Around here, there's a lot of alcohol that gets consumed and everybody drives everywhere, so they get back home instead of calling a cab or a ride. It's just too easy for them to jump in a car and take off," Kevin Chance with the Odessa Police Department, said.

As more people move into West Texas, the number of intoxicated drivers rises.

"Between the hours of 6 and midnight 4 in 13 of those people are going to be impaired. After midnight, it becomes 7 in 13," Charles Hodges with Stop DWI, Inc., said.

It's hard to find standardized numbers for both Midland and Odessa, but here's what we uncovered.

In 2006, Midland County saw 9 alcohol-related fatal crashes, up five from the previous year.

The latest reports from Odessa Police show 351 DWI's in 2006 and 368 DUI's during 2007.

Midland and Odessa are the larger cities in the permian basin, so they see more DUI's/DWI's, but the surrouding cities see their fair share.

"Most of what we see in the other counties is not social drinking like what you do in these metropolitan areas. It's the people who have just been at work all day, and they stop by and pick up a beer, and consume it unfortunately before they get home," Hodges, said.

And other people just come to Midland and Odessa to party.

"One of the things we'll see are people with ID cards with addresses from Pecos, New Mexico, just a lot of the surrounding towns. A lot of those towns don't have a lot of places to go," Chance said.

Local officers say they catch two types of drunk drivers: the social drinker and the habitual drinker.

The habitual drinker knows some tricks, they have practice driving in a straight line, and can even perform some of the sobriety tests, .but they're not necessarily the biggest risk.

"It's the social drinker that causes the problem," Hodges said.

In 2005, deaths related to alcoholic crashes increased for drivers who had a blood alcohol content of under the limit, and accidents involving people who were over the legal limit actually decreased.

"People are drinking sociably and then driving under the influence of alcohol, and unfortunately causes the crashes," Hodges said.

Lt. Bogart says it's a challenge he faces each time he hits the road.

"I don't go out very often, and I don't find one," Bogart said.

Coming up on Wednesday night, we'll have the scoop on where cops find the most DWI's, and it's not where you might think.