Austin police expand New Year's drunk driving initiative



Bio | Email | Follow: @HeatherK_KVUE

Posted on December 26, 2013 at 12:49 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 26 at 6:15 PM

AUSTIN -- With Christmas in the books, Austin police are looking ahead to the new year.

They're cracking down on drinking and driving for the holidays. The Austin Police Department started their Home for the Holidays initiative in 2007 and has since expanded it.

Fifteen law enforcement agencies will be on patrol across Central Texas over the next few weeks, looking for drunk drivers. All 15 agencies began participating in the safety initiative called Arrive Alive in February.

This session of Arrive Alive Central Texas/ Home for the Holidays will be the seventh program involving all 15 agencies in 2013.

It includes a no refusal iniative New Year's Eve. Judges will be on hand to approve a search warrant to get blood tests from drivers who refuse a breath test if suspected of DWI.

Agencies are also looking to put a face on the victims of drunk driving. Officers have been handing out fliers that serve as a memorial to 18-year-old Mayra Gega and her 16-year-old brother Emmanuel Hernandez. They were killed when a drunk driver crashed head-on into their car. Mayra was driving her graduation present, a 1999 Mercury Cougar. They were leaving a "Teacher of the Year" event at their high school.

Police say the Home for the Holidays program helps cut back on the dangerous behavior that traditionally occurs from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day.

APD said their goal is to decrease the number of injuries and even deaths connected to drinking and driving.

"We're trying to change the culture of bad driving within this area and we want to have consistency throughout Central Texas for people to understand police are out there," said Lt. Robert Richman with APD. "We're watching and want to make sure that they're safe."

This third phase of the Home for the Holidays initiative will begin Tuesday, Dec. 31 and will continue through Thursday, Jan. 2.

Officers will ramp up enforcement of traffic safety violations like intoxication,  tailgating, speeding and aggressive driving.

Agencies involved in the initiative said they believe it is working to change the culture. In 2012, eight people died in traffic accidents. In 2013, that number was five.