DWI

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

Austin has seen a staggering rise in traffic fatalities this year. There have already been more road deaths so far in 2015 than there were during all of last year, and about half of these fatal crashes involve alcohol or intoxication.

To understand more about how the Austin Police Department is going after drunk drivers, I spent a night following an officer on his DWI enforcement unit during his patrol.

It was a long night. 

James Palinsad/flickr

There have been at least 41 traffic fatalities so far this year in Austin, which is nearly double the number during the same period last year. And, in many of these crashes, alcohol and impaired driving are factors. A new analysis of DWI data is providing a better picture of where the problem spots are.

Over the last decade, there have been nearly 200 deaths in Austin due to drunk driving. A new analysis by Civic Analytics shows suspects in 724 of the 6,033 DWI arrests live in District 3, which includes East Austin and parts of South Austin. 

Jon Shapley for KUT News

The Austin Police Department will be monitoring the roads extra carefully this weekend, and enforcing a "no refusal" mandate; law enforcement will be able to quickly obtain a warrant to test the blood-alcohol level of any suspected drunk driver who objects to a Breathalyzer or blood test.

Fourth of July revelers who don’t think they’ll make fit drivers this weekend will have their pick of get-home-safe cards.

1. Capital Metro has some late-night options, including year-round Night Owl buses that run until 3 a.m. Monday through Saturday. Night Owl services travel five different routes between popular spots on 6th Street and city neighborhoods.

Ashley Park for KUT

Nationwide, drunk driving is on the decline – but you wouldn't know it living in Austin. This spring, the city has seen several high-profile deaths attributable to drunk driving.

This weekend, Kelly Noel – a well-known music fan who ran the popular ATXHispsters Twitter account – was killed by a drunk driver downtown. (The account continues to auto-tweet the latest stories from Austin news outlets, including KUT.) And in March, Rashad Owens allegedly killed and injured South by Southwest attendees when he accelerated into SXSW crowds while trying to evade police.

The morning after the SXSW killings, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said “tragedy brings opportunity. It’s an opportunity for a gut check … it's a gut check for the people involved, it’s a gut check for this community.”

 

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Several law enforcement agencies across Central Texas will be on patrol looking for drunk drivers during the upcoming holiday. The Austin Police Department will start the third phase of its safety initiative next week.

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