For the years 2001 to 2005, Texas' 46 dry counties - where alcohol is not available for off-premise consumption - had an average of 6.8 alcohol-related traffic fatalities per 10,000 people. (The counties had a combined population of 841,197 people and 574 alcohol-related traffic deaths, according to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.) In Texas' 38 wet counties, the average was 1.9 deaths per 10,000 people. (Those counties had a combined population of 9,327,410, and 1,840 deaths.) "I'm not surprised," said Oscar Dillahunty, spokesman for Angelina County Citizens for Responsible Business, the group that obtained signatures to put the issue on the ballot. "There is less distance you've got to drive. People would rather drive and then drink at home ... rather than drink on the highway." He said the notion that alcohol or a county being wet increased motor vehicle fatalities was "promoted by the anti-alcohol groups. The fact is, the less distance you have to drive to buy the alcohol, the fewer fatalities there will be. But people believe what they want to believe." A spokesman for Angelina County Citizens for a Better Community - the group opposing sale of alcohol - said the issue wasn't alcohol-related fatalities but rather incidents of driving under the influence. "DUIs go up" in wet counties, said Lee Miller with ACCBC. Comparing wet and dry counties, Miller added, was "like comparing apples to oranges. A true research study would consider the variables such as availability of alcohol and outlet density, factors in the accidents and other indicators to get a true picture. Although in 2005 we were still ranked No. 3 in alcohol-related fatalities, I believe as the DPS says that we have reduced alcohol-related and non-alcohol-related accidents through many factors such as education, stricter laws and stronger enforcement. Still, 45 percent of the state's fatalities are alcohol-related." David Young, spokesman for the Lufkin Police Department, said he was surprised by the numbers, although he does not think there will be a "tremendous difference" in the police department's operation if the county becomes wet. "Alcohol is here already ... There'll be some difference in the type of calls," he said. The police department has dealt with almost all kinds of alcohol situations - from bootleggers to drunk drivers, Young said. "We're well experienced with issues relating to alcohol," he said. Angelina County alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities 2001 - 9 2002 - 6 2003 - 9 2004 - 11 2005 - 10 Number of deaths per 10,000 people - 5.6 --- Nacogdoches County alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities 2001 - 5 2002 - 7 2003 - 7 2004 - 10 2005 - 4 Number of deaths per 10,000 people - 5.5
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