AUSTIN (KXAN) — Crashes involving city-owned vehicles have cost Austin millions of dollars over the past few years, a newly-released audit shows.

City vehicles were involved in 1,855 crashes between fiscal years 2019 and 2021, resulting in $8.4 million worth of repairs and replacement vehicles, according to the audit.

The report, completed at the request of Austin City Council member Natasha Harper-Madison and Mayor Pro Tem Alison Alter, found six city departments had more than 100 crashes each.

The Austin Police Department reported 882 total crashes, almost half of the city total. According to the city, APD has 1,184 vehicles in its fleet, out of 4,835 total city-owned vehicles, about 24.5% of the total.

Austin Water, Austin Resource Recovery, Austin-Travis County EMS, Austin Parks & Recreation and the Austin Fire Department all reported more than 100 crashes each.

Of the 1,855 total crashes, more than 1,300 had associated repair costs. According to the audit, the cost of repairs averaged around $1.2 million each year, ranging from a few dollars to more than $150,000 for a single crash.

The audit found that the city was at fault in 871 of the crashes, about 47% of the total. In those cases, the audit found the crashes resulted in more than $1.4 million in payouts to other parties involved in the crashes. An additional $3.2 million in repair and replacements costs to damaged vehicles means the total cost of at-fault crashes for the city was more than $4.7 million.

Again, APD was responsible for almost half of the total cost for at-fault crashes, costing the city more than $2.2 million.

According to the report, 116 of the 1,855 total crashes — about 6% — resulted in the city vehicle being totaled. Replacement of those vehicles cost $4.8 million. APD accounted for 75% of the vehicles that were totaled.

The city tries to offset some of this cost by auctioning off totaled vehicles. Any money generated from auctions is transferred to the Austin’s general fund and enterprise departments. According to the audit, the city’s fleet management does not budget for replacing totaled vehicles. They do, however, make an exception for police pursuit vehicles, “to make sure the Austin Police Department always has the specialized vehicles they need.”

In FY 2022, Austin budgeted for 10 reserve vehicles for APD, at a cost of approximately half a million dollars.

“More than 1,800 crashes costing taxpayers north of $8 million across three years is a startling finding,” said Councilmember Harper-Madison. “We have to reduce those numbers by making investments in safer infrastructure while also using every tool in the toolbox to encourage our city employees to buckle up and drive safely.”

The city does have guidance for employees who must drive as part of their job. A spokesperson told KXAN that the city operates multiple vehicle types, from sedans to fire trucks, and that “individual departments implement training based on their operations.”

The use of seat belts is required, but the audit found “limited information” on whether drivers are disciplined if they don’t wear their seat belt. When employees are involved in a crash, they are expected to self-report the information in an incident report within 24 hours.

Violations are tracked by the city’s HR department. A violation adds points to an employee’s record. The number of points is determined by the type of violation. If an employee accumulates more than 12 points over a period of 36 months, they are no longer allowed to drive on city business.

According to the audit, it’s “unclear” if failing to wear a seat belt results in points being added to an employee’s record.

Austin’s Fleet Mobility Services is in the process of installing vehicle monitoring systems in all city-owned vehicles, and it expects to be complete by the end of the year. With the new system, the city will be able to collect information on fuel usage, vehicle maintenance and employee driving habits.

“The health and safety of city employees and the public is our highest priority. Our Fleet Mobility Department is committed to deploying the latest in advanced automotive safety technology from the vehicle manufacturers as well as telematics to help build a culture of safety for our drivers to achieve a positive outcome,” a city spokesperson told KXAN in a statement. “Through this technology, the city is currently enhancing our ability to gain better insight into vehicles while they are being operated including the use of safety restraints.”

As of now, about a third of all city departments have the new system already in place.

“I co-sponsored this special request with Council Member Harper-Madison to surface data regarding the costs and policies associated with crashes involving city-owned vehicles,” MPT Alter said in a statement to KXAN. “I am pleased that Fleet Mobility Services is rolling out a new system to support safer driving, and I will work with my colleagues to identify opportunities for further policy steps.”