In most families in Texas, only one week remains before youngsters return to school - if they havenít already gone back in preparation for the semesterís extracurricular activities. So itís last call for many of the traditional activities of summer vacation - traveling, boating and good times with family and friends. The next two weeks, leading up to Labor Day weekend, promise to be a hectic time.

For many, those recreational pursuits also mean the use of alcohol. Unfortunately, Texas continues to lead the nation in drunk driving traffic fatalities. The Texas Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have joined Mothers Against Drunk Driving, local law enforcement agencies and other community leaders in a focused crackdown on offenders that began Friday and continues through Sept. 1.

In 2006, 1,354 motorists in Texas died in alcohol-impaired crashes where the driver had a blood or breath alcohol concentration of .08 or higher. Thatís up 34 deaths from the previous year.

Thousands of state troopers and local law enforcement officers will be stepping up enforcement of the stateís DWI laws in the coming weeks. In a similar campaign last year, 3,979 drunk drivers were arrested during the two-week crackdown, up more than 700 arrests from the prior year.

Convicted first-time DWI offenders can pay a fine of up to $2,000, lose their driverís license for as long as a year, and serve 180 days in jail.

Safety officials say other costs associated with a drunk driving arrest and conviction can add up to more than $10,000 for bail, legal fees, court appearances, court-ordered classes and vehicle insurance increases.

These are costs that are easily avoidable. And the real bonus is that doing so may even save some lives.

Brownwood Bulletin