Chief sup­ports stiffer penal­ties

Fa­tal­i­ties

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - Alberto Martínez / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN Con­tin­ued from Con­tact Clau­dia Grisales at 912-5933. Twit­ter: @cgrisales

We can’t sit back.”

Acevedo an­nounced the de­part­ment will con­duct a DWI “no-re­fusal” ini­tia­tive from 5 p.m. New Year’s Eve to 5 a.m. New Year’s Day. Un­der the no-re­fusal re­quire­ments, of­fi­cers can ob­tain blood search war­rants on peo­ple who refuse to give a breath or blood sam­ple as re­quired by law.

At least 32 of this year’s traf­fic deaths, or more than one-third, have been al­co­hol re­lated, po­lice said. They are still wait­ing for tox­i­col­ogy re­sults to de­ter­mine if 13 other cases also were.

Acevedo said his de­part­ment will look at de­vot­ing ad­di­tional over­time dol­lars next year to ded­i­cate more of­fi­cers solely to traf­fic en­force­ment, thereby boost­ing area pa­trols. Also, tick­ets, rather than warn­ings, will be more com­mon­place.

“One of the things we are telling our of­fi­cers is the nice guy giv­ing warn­ings is not work­ing,” he said. “They should is­sue that ci­ta­tion. Peo­ple are just not get­ting it. What changes be­hav­ior is that ticket.”

Acevedo said he’ll sup­port ef­forts to boost stiffer driver neg­li­gence penal­ties through lo­cal courts as well as new leg­is­la­tion when state law­mak­ers con­vene in Jan­uary.

For ex­am­ple, Acevedo and District At­tor­ney Rose­mary Lehm­berg are due to meet next month to ad­dress stiffer penal­ties for deadly neg­li­gence, as in cases of fail­ure to stop and ren­der aid.

Also in Jan­uary, Acevedo said, Austin po­lice of­fi­cials will gather with their coun­ter­parts in Travis, Wil­liamson and Hays coun­ties for a Cen­tral Texas “traf­fic sum­mit” in a joint ef­fort to fight traf­fic deaths. Such an ap­proach could lead to joint task forces to over­see and launch traf­fic safety ef­forts, he said.

“We are all do­ing more with less, so we need to bring that syn­ergy to­gether and come up with some mul­ti­juris­dic­tional task forces,” he said. “It’s all some­thing we have to take own­er­ship of.”

Acevedo said his de­part­ment also will likely re­in­sti­tute many of the traf­fic safety ini­tia­tives used this sum­mer.

In June, po­lice launched a three-pronged at­tack to slow the alarming rate of deadly en­coun­ters on Austin roads: un­der­tak­ing a zero-tol­er­ance pedes­trian safety pro­gram, boost­ing pa­trols on Sun­day nights — when one of ev­ery four traf­fic fa­tal­i­ties had oc­curred — and re­align­ing po­lice re­sources to high­risk ar­eas.

For ex­am­ple, Op­er­a­tion Sum­mer Sun­days re­sulted in 500 traf­fic stops, 92 drunken driv­ing ar­rests and zero traf­fic fa­tal­i­ties dur­ing the three-month pe­riod it was en­forced, po­lice said.

By Septem­ber, po­lice had lauded a de­cline in the rate of traf­fic fa­tal­i­ties, re­duc­ing ear­lier 2012 pro­jec­tions that the city would see 80 road­way deaths down to 74. How­ever, the pace soared again by Oc­to­ber, bring­ing the year’s to­tal to 77 as of Thurs­day.

That’s up from 53 such deaths seen at this time last year, a 45 per­cent in­crease.

Of­fi­cials in June also pre­dicted a record 36 fa­tal auto-pedes­trian crashes in 2012, but of­fi­cials later said the sum­mer ini­tia­tives had worked and were pro­ject­ing 31 au­to­pe­des­trian deaths.

With four days left in the year, Austin has seen 28 auto-pedes­trian fa­tal­i­ties, still mark­ing the dead­li­est year on record for pedes­tri­ans and cy­clists.

“Ev­ery sin­gle one (of th­ese crashes) is pre­ventable, and they are all caused by peo­ple mak­ing poor choices,” Acevedo said.

A me­mo­rial hon­ors Jeremy Barta at the en­trance to the prop­erty where he used to live. He was killed April 30 when a Metro­Rail train hit his car as he was pulling out of his drive­way.

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