Getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol can lead to negative consequences that impact the lives of so many people, including you
By Jeffrey L. Boney, Associate Editor
It is our hope at the Forward Times that every one of you have a joyous and celebratory holiday season. As part of those celebrations, we understand that many people enjoy this festive season by attending various holiday parties and partaking in alcohol consumption. We are here to strongly encourage you NOT to drive drunk at any time, especially during this holiday season.
According to TxDOT, last year during the holiday season from December 1, 2021, through January 1, 2022, the state of Texas saw 48,641 traffic crashes occur, which resulted in 433 fatalities and 1,695 serious injuries. Almost a quarter of those deaths (23%) were DUI-alcohol related, with 98 people killed and 236 people seriously injured in drunk driving crashes.
These are troubling statistics, which one would think would lead to a change in behavior and choices as it relates to getting behind the wheel and driving drunk, but that hasn’t been the case.
On top of the crashes, injuries, and deaths, there are other outcomes from drunk driving that impact the victims, their family and loved ones, and the drunk driver themselves.
Although many people believe that they can effectively make it to their desired destination after having consumed alcohol, there are countless examples that prove otherwise.
Let’s take the case of Daniel Canada for example.
Canada, 37, made a fatal decision that not only led to a mother and her three sons losing their lives, but that left a husband and father to grieve for the rest of his life, and that cost him his freedom, all because he chose to drive drunk.
Canada was sentenced to four life sentences by state District Judge Colleen Gaido on Monday, December 19th, after he was convicted last week of four counts of intoxication manslaughter after a three-week trial. The four life sentences will run concurrently.
This all came about as result that Canada made on the evening of March 14th of last year. He was visiting Houston from Longview and was believed to be driving over 100 mph when he slammed into the back of a car sitting at the stoplight at the intersection of FM 2920 and Gosling Road.
The black box recovered from Canada’s vehicle by Harris County Precinct 4 Constable’s Office investigators revealed that he was driving 115 mph, only 2 seconds before crashing into the vehicle. That car was being driven by a 28-year-old mother, Porsha Branch, and she had her three sons in the car with her—King (5), Messiah (2), and Drake (7 months).
Immediately after impact, the vehicle carrying the young family was thrust into several other vehicles before going up in flames. Branch and her three sons were killed, and other drivers involved in the multi-vehicle incident suffered minor injuries as well, but Canada survived the tragic accident with only a few minor scrapes and bruises.
There are several things that should be highlighted here in this unfortunate incident that could have possibly prevented this deadly outcome.
First, Canada’s blood alcohol level was nearly twice the legal limit (0.15), and a blood test eventually uncovered that he also had Xanax and marijuana in his system.
Secondly, and most disturbing, are the reports that Canada was pulled over and stopped by a Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy just 30 minutes prior to the deadly crash for speeding, but because he allegedly showed no “outward signs of impairment” he was released by the law enforcement official and allowed to commit this horrific and unfortunate tragedy.
Now, Damien House must deal with the loss of his wife and three children, while providing support and comfort for his three other children—Lyndon (11), Paris (8), and Da’money (5).
Assistant District Attorney Lynn Nguyen, who prosecuted the case with ADA Erandy Marquez, said the verdict shows that the people of Harris County are tired of drunken driving deaths and will hold defendants accountable.
“Daniel Canada robbed three young children of the opportunity to grow into the people they could have become,” said Nguyen. “He robbed a mother of her life, a father of his entire family, and the community of a wonderful group of people, and he did all of this simply out of selfishness.”
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg spoke about the case and the significance of drunk driving deaths during the holiday season.
“We see more deaths from drunk driving between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day than any other month a year,” Ogg said. “This heartbreaking case shows that a single person’s irresponsibility and bad decisions can result in the deaths of multiple people who are completely innocent, including kids.”
Again, this tragic outcome could have possibly been avoided if Canada would not have gotten behind the wheel and chosen to drive drunk.
Another drunk driving incident occurred on October 21st, when a man was killed while standing at a METRO bus stop in northwest Houston at Airline Drive and Tidwell Road, by a driver who was believed to be intoxicated. The alleged drunk driver went off the roadway in his pickup truck and onto the sidewalk, where the unsuspecting man was struck and killed, according to Houston Police Department (HPD) officials. The driver was taken into custody and was charged with intoxication manslaughter after the investigation into the crash and death.
In another egregious example, a repeat drunk driving offender, who had been convicted five previous times for drunk driving, was sentenced last month to 35 years in prison for felony murder after killing another driver in a drunk driving crash in 2018.
Owen McNett, 50, was convicted by a jury in October and chose to have his punishment determined by State District Judge Lori Chambers Gray, who gave the sentence.
Back on the evening of February 9, 2018, McNett was driving a Ram 1500 pickup when he approached a three-way stop at Telge and Boudreaux roads in Cypress, TX. Another driver, Wayne Childers, 54, was driving a Buick Verano on Boudreaux and was trying to turn south on Telge, when McNett went through the stop sign at 40 mph and T-boned the driver’s side of Childers’ car, killing Childers. A Harris County Sheriff’s Office deputy arrested McNett at the hospital, where it was determined that his blood alcohol level was almost four times the legal limit (.31).
As stated, McNett had been arrested for drunk driving five times prior to the deadly 2018 crash and had three long stints in prison.
In 1992, McNett was convicted in Kimble County for drunk driving and put on probation. In 1996, he was arrested for drunk driving by Benbrook police in Tarrant County for the second time and sentenced to 30 days in jail. Ten years later, in 2006, he was convicted of drunk driving in Johnson County and sentenced to seven years in prison. In 2007, Houston police officers arrested McNett for his fourth drunk driving infraction and he received four years in prison for that incident. Then, in November 2012, state troopers arrested him in McLennan County for what would be his fifth drunk driving incident and was given a six-year prison sentence.
Drunk driving crashes can be easily prevented, yet they can have serious physical, emotional and financial consequences that can last for years.
As people celebrate the holidays with friends and family, TxDOT wants to remind everyone to always find a sober ride.
“With everything going on in the world these past few years, we want everyone to be able to celebrate this joyous time of year without the tragic consequences of drinking and driving,” said TxDOT Executive Director Marc Williams. “Get together with family and friends and have a great time, but please find an alternative way home if you choose to drink. You have many options available.”
With all of this in mind, TxDOT has launched its statewide “Drive Sober. No Regrets.” campaign, to remind drivers why finding a sober ride is so important and to never get behind the wheel after drinking, either over the holidays or other times of year.
To encourage everyone to enjoy the holidays without drinking and driving, TxDOT’s “Drive Sober. No Regrets.” campaign will launch new PSAs on TV, radio, billboards, social media and at establishments such as bars, restaurants, and convenience stores statewide.
As part of its campaign, TxDOT is sharing video stories (in both English and Spanish) of real offenders and survivors of drunk driving.
Those videos, along with TxDOT’s new holiday campaign PSA, can be found at the bottom of the page of this website: https://www.soberrides.org/media-center/.
TxDOT’s campaign videos are narrated by Texans (in their own words) who deal with the daily consequences of drunk driving, either as offenders or survivors, such as:
- Richie Griffin of Austin (featured in this video), who drove home as a college freshman, while under the influence of alcohol, and crashed into someone’s home… costing him 10 days in jail, a year probation, 250 hours of community service, and a $30,000 fine.
- Jon Capraro of San Antonio (featured in this video), who was arrested for driving under the influence. Jon’s night out drinking with friends turned into a nightmare that cost him $15,000 in fines and fees, a night in jail, hours of community service, and the loss of his job.
- Analicia Zarate of Edinburg, TX (featured in this video in English and this video in Spanish), who lost her mother in a drunk driving-related crash in 2000, when she was just 4 years old.
- Jessica Turner from Lubbock (featured in this video), whose mother was teaching her to drive when their vehicle was hit, head on, by a drunk driver in Lubbock. Her mom was killed instantly.
Another drunk driving victim featured in this year’s campaign is a San Antonio area woman named Erin Crawford-Bowers who grew up without her parents, both of whom were killed in a drunk driving-related crash when their vehicle was struck by an impaired driver in the Houston area on June 22, 1985, when she was just 6 months old. Now a married mother of two herself and living in New Braunfels, TX, Erin is participating in TxDOT’s campaign to help prevent other families from going through what hers did.
By sharing video stories of people who, in their own words, talk about dealing with the consequences of drunk driving, TxDOT is reminding drivers why finding a sober ride is so important.
Again everyone, we encourage you to designate a sober driver, call a taxi, use a rideshare service, stay put, call a friend or family member, or use public transportation to ensure you get home safely if you decide to drink. Enjoy your holiday season and drink responsibly.