4 Reasons Austin Texas Sees Far Too Many DWI Arrests
In most places in the US, drunk driving arrests are down. One city that defies this trend is Austin, Texas. For several years, DWI arrests have been on the rise, and the number of alcohol-related crashes on Austin’s roads is proportionally higher than other Texas cities. In fact, Austin’s downtown zip code has the highest alcohol sales in the state. Given that Texas regularly ranks in the top three states with the worst drunk driving records, that’s a meaningful and distressing distinction.
A number of factors contribute to the climate that seems to tolerate drinking and driving:
- Drinking Culture. Austin is famous among Texas cities for its love of drinking. Some fifty thousand university students, bustling nightlife with a plethora of bars, a steady stream of tourists, and the party atmosphere that festivals like SXSW create all add up to an atmosphere of excess.
- Inadequate Transport. It is very difficult to get a taxi during the wee hours in Austin. Not enough taxis are being issued permits. Partygoers eventually give up and crawl into their cars to drive home.
- Inadequate Prosecution. Police complain that their DWI arrests are not resulting in convictions. One reason is that the caseload is too large for the staff. Many DWI cases end up getting dismissed or re-filed as other, simpler charges with fewer consequences.
- Inadequate Ignition Interlock Laws. 24 states now mandate ignition interlocks for all DWI offenses. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. All-offender interlock laws are known to reduce DWI road deaths. Texas mandates ignition interlocks only for drivers who have had two more DWI convictions within ten years.
There are solutions for most of these problems. Stronger ignition interlock laws and better nighttime transport are no-brainers. And perhaps Austin can eventually address those drinking problems that stem from their unique culture. A number of public officials have come forward to say that something must be done. It remains to be seen whether Austin’s citizens will heed the call and start to rid their streets and highways of the menace of drunk driving.