Memorial Weekend is just a few weeks away, and according to FOX 7 News, Texas now ranks eighth when it comes to the highest number of DUI fatalities in America.
Each day in the U.S., people drive drunk almost 300,000 times, but fewer than 4,000 are arrested, and with Memorial Day just a few short weeks away, the Austin Police Department is doing its best to deter motorists from getting behind the wheel when they’re intoxicated.
An average drunk driver has driven drunk 80 times before the first arrest, and researchers continue to cite Memorial Day weekend as one where deaths from drunk driving skyrocket and are “four times higher.”
As a result, between May 24th and June 10th, a No Refusal Weekend policy has been set in place. The initiative has been implemented every weekend in Austin so far this year, and the Austin Police Department cites it for “bringing down the number of fatalities caused by intoxication in Austin.”
Each year, Austin PD says, there are between 5,000 and 6,000 DWI arrests in the city. This No Refusal Weekend policy means that police officers can legally draw blood forcefully from drivers that will not agree to participate in a sobriety test.
While ValuePenguin says Austin’s DUI fatality rates are lower than Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio, Fox 7 News also cited the numbers for DUI deaths in the previous two years.
“In 2016, there were 30 deaths. In 2017 – there were 24. This year (2018) APD couldn’t get us those numbers due to pending toxicology,” writes Destiny Chance.
Detective Michael Jennings, who is a member of the Austin Police Department’s DWI Unit, notes that the rates of those who drive under the influence of drugs are also increasing. He says that even if the drugs are prescribed legally, he says that the number of intoxication-related fatalities “needs to be zero,” which his force is working to reach every single day.
“I think a lot of times people aren’t making a conscious decision saying they’ll go out and hurt or kill somebody that’s not what it is. But I think they make bad decisions of getting in the car,” said Jennings.
Beth Powell, program director for the East Texas office of MADD, shares similar sentiments.
“A DUI is 100% preventable; it’s just a decision not to put your keys in the ignition and drive,” Powell recently told the Longview News-Journal. “It would be better to make someone frustrated or irritated by taking their keys, if you’re sober, than to be sorry that you didn’t.”