Austin Creates NYE Drunk Drivers

In 2008, Forbes ranked Austin as America’s Hardest Drinking City. A few months ago, said Austin has the ninth largest percentage of drivers with alcohol-related driving convictions in the nation.

We all know New Year’s Eve is the night many people ensure they start the new year with a massive hangover. I’ve done it many times. (Inauspicious as that may be.) Further, it’s the night that all the amateur drinkers come to town to celebrate, get sloshed and then drive back to Manor or Cedar Park or Kyle.

But what is the city doing to curb drunk driving on nights like tonight? They’re promising increased patrols, forcing mandatory blood draws on suspected drunk drivers and urging people to call for a free cab ride home from Austin Sober Ride.

What the city isn’t offering is extended public transportation options on CapMetroand isn’t going to run the MetroRail at all.

Friday, December 31, 2010
Saturday Level Service
Night Owl Service will operate
No MetroRail, UT Service or E-Bus

Further, the first thing I heard on the news this morning is that Austin doesn’t have enough cabs to handle all the people who will likely be calling for service. They said to expect up to an hour or more wait (and anyone who’s tried to get a cab downtown at two in the morning on a regular night knows that’s an understatement).

“We don’t have enough cabs for the demand for New Year’s Eve,” said Gloria Souhami with Sober Ride. “I would say that it would be fair to expect maybe an hour… an hour and 15 minutes.”

I’d wager those calling Sober Ride will actually be waiting longer than those calling Yellow Cab themselves. Cabbies are more likely to get a tip from someone who has directly requested them than from people who are expecting a free ride home.

Now, I understand the whole concept of personal responsibility and making sure you have a designated driver. Unfortunately, many times — especially on holidays — respect for responsibility fails in the face of celebration.

And those calling for government to get out of our lives should remember that every once in a while an ounce of prevention can equal a pound or more of a loved one’s flesh.

So if Austin really wants fewer drunk drivers tonight, here are my (few) proposals:

  • Extend public transportation, including MetroRail, service;
  • Continue to advertise Sober Ride;
  • Encourage designated drivers; and
  • Allow Austin Police Department officers to take people home rather than just issuing tickets for Public Intoxication, following them to their cars and picking them up for driving drunk.

It’s better to prevent a possibly fatal crime than just enforce the law — especially when the law comes too late.

Myself? I’ll be at the Austin Symphony with my family. Sober. And hoping a drunk driver doesn’t hit us on our way there and/or back.

(Please feel free to add your proposals in the comments.)

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