TxDOT launched its statewide “Faces of Drunk Driving” campaign, which puts real faces and stories behind the statistics through video testimonials. (Screengrab)

There were 963 alcohol-related deaths on Texas roads last year, averaging one person dying every nine hours and six minutes.

State troopers and local law enforcement hope to combat those numbers by taking a stand against drunk driving. And on Thursday, the Texas Department of Public Safety moved forward by kicking off its sixth annual Labor Day DWI No Refusal weekend at the DPS regional headquarters in Weslaco.

Hosted by the Rio Grande Valley District Attorney Coalition, the conference drew representatives from all law enforcement agencies in the Valley as well as district attorneys from each of the region’s four counties.

“Each year during the Labor Day weekend our law enforcement community comes together to present a unified front in combating drinking and driving,” Hidalgo County Criminal District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez said in a news release prior to the event. “The purpose of No Refusal weekend is to send a direct message to our Hidalgo County residents and neighboring counties that if they get behind the wheel of a vehicle while intoxicated, they will be arrested and charged.

“It is up to all of us to keep our neighbors safe by not drinking and driving.”

The crackdown began Thursday and will run through Monday. During this time, anyone who refuses to provide a breath sample will be subjected to a blood test either at the scene, the nearest jailing facility or a medical facility.

Simultaneously, authorities will also be running Operation Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort, otherwise referred to as CARE, in which law enforcement agencies will be increasing enforcement efforts in search of people not wearing seat belts or individuals who are speeding or fail to follow other traffic laws.

“DPS is reminding all drivers that safety always comes first,” DPS Director Steven McCraw said in the news release. “While long weekends are a time to get out and enjoy, we all need to do our part to keep roads safe, and that is why troopers will be out ensuring everyone is following the traffic laws.”

During last year’s Labor Day weekend, troopers issued 71,544 citations and warnings and made a collective 1,404 arrests for fugitives, felonies and DWIs.

On Monday, the Texas Department of Transportation launched its statewide “Faces of Drunk Driving” campaign, which puts real faces and stories behind the statistics through video testimonials.

Analicia Zarate of Edinburg shared one such testimony, telling the story of how she survived a drunk driving incident that took her mother’s life in 2000.

Nereida Flores Garza and her daughter, Analicia Zarate of Edinburg. Garza died in a drunk driving incident in 2000. (Courtesy photo)

“It was a Sunday,” Zarate, who is serving as a spokesperson for TxDOT’s “Faces of Drunk Driving” campaign this year, said in the video. “We were leaving church about 9 o’clock at night, and a drunk driver was heading north; we were heading west. There was a stop sign that he didn’t see, or disregarded, and he didn’t stop.”

There was a collision in which the 4-year-old Zarate was hospitalized, not waking until a week later. Her mother, Nereida Flores Garza, was killed.

“All I remember is getting buckled into a car seat and waking up in a hospital a week later. My mother died in the crash. I was 4,” Zarate added. “It was anger at the beginning. I remember telling my dad I wish the offender could see the pain. I wish I didn’t even have to talk. I don’t have to say anything. I just want him to see my face.”

The campaign highlights the toll that drinking and driving can cause and the videos feature similar personal accounts from victims, offenders and families of those who survived and others whose lives have been impacted.

“I’m not against people drinking,” Zarate continued in the video, “but I am for drinking responsibly, because drunk driving needs to stop.”

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View Analicia Zarate’s testimony below: