APD: DWI arrests, crashes decreasing

APD: DWI arrests, crashes decreasing

AUSTIN -- The number of people drinking and driving appears to be decreasing, according to the Austin Police Department -- good news on the heels of the city's largest event, South by Southwest.

While police have plans in place to make this year's SXSW even safer than last year's, statistics show DWI arrests and crashes are down citywide, and there could be a few reasons why.

"Everybody knows that when you take the chance of driving impaired, you risk having a crash, you risk killing somebody," said APD DWI Enforcement Lt. Keith Walker.

Walker said bringing awareness is part of his job in DWI enforcement.

"We're doing the 'no refusals.' We're doing 'Arrive Alive', we're doing all these initiatives to make the public safer," Walker said.

Statistics from APD show from 2011 to 2013, the number of DWI arrests increased each year, then dropped 16 percent in 2014. DWI-related crashes fell even more citywide, decreasing by 23 percent last year.

"It's a pretty strong indicator that impaired driving in general is decreasing in the Austin area, and we hope to keep it that way," Walker said.

2014 is also the year ride-sharing started in Austin, with services like Uber and Lyft entering the market. Walker said he doesn't know how much of an impact it had on drunk driving in Austin, but the more options people have, the better.

"Any increase in an alternative transportation method can't do anything but help," Walker said.

Even with Austin's population growing every day, Walker feels confident this downward trend can continue.

"If my team was put out of business because there was never another DWI, we'd be perfectly happy. Unfortunately, that's not reality but hey, we're trying," Walker said.

Austin police report 57 percent of DWI arrests and 64 percent of DWI crashes happen Friday through Sunday citywide.

A drunk driving crash at SXSW last year killed four people and injured dozens. Police have plans to make this year's event safer. There will be 60 additional officers on duty and manned barricades this year. On the final weekend of the music festival, an additional 120 officers will be on hand for crowd control.


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