‘Concerning to us’: Chief Manley says trends show rise in Austin traffic fatalities

Austin Police Chief Brian Manley

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin has seen a 30 percent increase in traffic fatalities for 2019, and we haven’t even gone through what Police Chief Brian Manley said is statistically the deadliest month of the year: July.

Chief Manley laid out traffic trends the force is seeing so far for this year in a press conference on Friday. “We’re seeing some trends that are concerning to us,” he said. 

“Do not become or do not create one of these statistics because each and every one of these statistics is a human life, is a mother, a father, a brother, a sister, a son or a daughter and there is just simply no excuse.”

-Chief Brian Manley

To date, Austin has seen 29 fatal crashes in 2019, which resulted in 30 fatalities. At this same time in 2018, there were 22 fatal crashes and 23 fatalities. 

Why the increase? Chief Manley says it’s because of the city’s growing population. “There’s more traffic on the roadways but what we do is we dig down deep into those contributing factors and we look for things we can do differently or better to prevent them and we tend to find some of those same causes and factors.”

Of the 30 fatalities, 11 of them happened in April.

Ahead of the summer months when Austin sees an increase in people flooding into the city, he touched on several ways people can drive safer and hopefully spare lives. 

There are factors Chief Manley lists that contribute to fatalities including:

  • People using their phones while driving
  • Attempts to cross I-35 
  • Not using crosswalks
  • Driving while intoxicated

“Put the phone down and use it responsibly”

That’s exactly what Chief Manley says could help prevent people from losing their lives. 

“That is just irresponsible as a driver, and we’re seeing lives lost. We’re seeing people injured. And that’s why it is not allowed,” Manley said.

“These are preventable”

Auto-pedestrian crashes have increased by 50 percent in 2019. Of 12 pedestrians who were killed, 11 of those have been in areas where people are crossing, but there is no crosswalk. Six of the pedestrian-involved crashes happened off of I-35 on the frontage roads. 

Manley reminded parents as summer approaches to remind their kids about being careful when crossing the street and riding bikes. 

“If people follow the law and follow common sense and good judgment, and together as a community, we all need to come together so that everyone can enjoy Austin in the summer and do so safely,” he said.

“There’s never an excuse to drive drunk” 

Serious crashes involving people who are driving while intoxicated are up 180 percent from 2019. There have been 14 so far in 2019 compared to just five at this time last year. 

“There are far too many options, and we know too much the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs,” Manley said. The department plans to continue “no refusal” operations on weekends throughout the year.

“Have a plan, have a designated driver, if that fails don’t get in the car with a drunk driver, a driver who’s been drinking and don’t drive if you yourself have been drinking,” Manley said.

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