Interstate 45 is hard to avoid in Houston, but it can be a dangerous road, whether you're driving on the Gulf Freeway, the North Freeway, or the Pierce Elevated. In December of 2019, a suspected drunk driver killed a passenger in another car when he drove the wrong way down the North Freeway. In November of 2019, another driver suspected of DWI strayed into another lane on the Gulf Freeway and struck and killed two pedestrians. Too many tragedies like these happen on I-45 nearly every day.
According to the Houston Chronicle, the nine-county Houston area had more fatal crashes involving alcohol or drugs than any other major metropolitan area in the country from 2001 to 2016. Earlier this year, Popular Mechanics named I-45 the most dangerous stretch of roadway in the United States. As a result, Houston-area law enforcement officers take DWI enforcement on I-45 very seriously.
The Most Dangerous Areas of I-45
Most of us enjoy a drink in the evening with friends or at dinner. None of us ever plan to drive while intoxicated intentionally. But even if you casually drink and plan to drive on I-45 in the Houston area, you should be aware of the most dangerous spots for driving. And you should be on high alert for law enforcement looking for drunk drivers in those areas. You could be stopped for a suspected DWI even if you aren't intoxicated.
1. Common Crash Areas
In 2018, there were more than 68,000 crashes in the city of Houston. Harris County alone accounted for 10% of all car crashes in Texas. But there are some spots more prone to accidents. Some of the most common areas for car crashes on I-45 include:
- I-45 at Louetta Road
- I-45 feeder at Chartres Street
- I-45 and Greens Road
- I-45 between I-10 and the South Loop Freeway/610 South
- I-45 between SL-8 North and 610 North
In these areas, it's important to be on high alert for potential accidents and a high police presence on the roadways.
2.Construction and Congestion
Construction and congestion on I-45 are constant. But these spots can be a magnet for car accidents when traffic slows, roadways narrow, and cones direct traffic into unfamiliar patterns. Some areas of concern include:
- Sam Houston Tollway Widening: The state completed the southeast Sam Houston Tollway widening but is still working on widening the eastbound portion of the project from I-45 South to SH 225.
- The North Houston Highway Improvement Project: If the project planned to reshape I-45 around downtown Houston proceeds, it will impact the area's traffic conditions for more than a decade. The project will cost more than seven billion dollars. The project's scope is huge, widening the North Freeway from the North Sam Houston Tollway to Downtown Houston. The Texas Department of Transportation hopes the project will reduce traffic bottlenecks and increase speed and efficiency on this portion of I-45.
- The North Freeway: The Texas DOT lists several sections of the North Freeway as some of the most congested roads in the state, including I-45 from Sam Houston Tollway North to the North Loop Freeway/IH 610 and from the North Loop Freeway/IH 610 to IH 10/US 90.
- Gulf Freeway: The Texas DOT lists the Gulf Freeway from IH 10/US 90 to the South Loop East Freeway/IH 610 as one of the most congested roadways in the state. Traffic congestion leads to accidents, so drivers should be on high alert in this area.
- The South Freeway: The Texas DOT also lists the South Freeway as highly congested from the Gulf Freeway to the South Loop Freeway.
If you've been arrested for a DWI on I-45, you could face serious consequences. Penalties for a DWI conviction can run from 72 hours in jail for a first conviction to up to ten years for a third or greater offense. On top of jail time, you'll face fines from $2,000 to $10,000 and mandatory penalties from the state of Texas. Even a first DWI conviction could land you with up to $6,000 in fines and penalties. The state can also suspend your license for up to two years with multiple DWI convictions.
Aside from the criminal penalties of a DWI conviction, a criminal record can have lasting consequences on your life.
- A DWI conviction can affect your career, particularly if you hold a professional license, a security clearance, a pilot’s license, a career in the financial industry, or have a military career.
- A DWI conviction can affect child custody, depending on the circumstances of your arrest.
- A DWI conviction can impact your constitutional rights, such as your right to own or possess a firearm and your right to vote.
- A DWI can impact your ability to obtain a loan, whether as financial aid or a mortgage for a home.
- A DWI conviction can also affect your ability to travel to Canada and affect your TSA Precheck and Global Entry.
DWI convictions in Texas also stay on your record. While many states may drop DWIs from your driving record after anywhere from five to ten years, Texas does not do this. In our state, a DWI stays on your driving record, affecting your insurance rates for years to come.
But an arrest is not a conviction, and you can take steps to move toward a better outcome. One of your priorities after a DWI arrest should be hiring the right attorney to represent you. You need an attorney who understands both the legal and technical issues involved in DWI defense; someone with a proven track record of experience to help you through this. Attorney Doug Murphy is a Board Certified specialist in criminal law and DWI defense, one of only two attorneys in the entire state of Texas to hold both credentials. Best Lawyers in America also recently named Doug the “Lawyer of the Year” for 2021 in DWI defense based on the peer reviews of fellow Houston-area attorneys. He's also annually heralded as one of the Best Lawyers in America by US News & World Report. Contact Doug today to discuss your legal options and minimize the potential damage to your future.