AUSTIN (KXAN) — In 2021, 116 people died in traffic crashes in Austin – and according to city data, 2022 is on par to match that.
Austin resident William Magnuson had a close call in the car earlier this year.
“Somebody was just on their phone checking their text messages and slammed into us at a red light,” he said. “The kids were scared, it was a little traumatic for everybody.”
Wednesday, the Austin Transportation Department (ATD) and Austin Police Department (APD) released a memo addressing a proposal to curb those numbers by means of more proactive traffic enforcement.
According to the memo, officers working for specialized units – including DWI and motorcycle traffic enforcement – got re-assigned to answer 911 calls. This was in response to a combination of higher call volumes and low APD staffing levels.
“APD is severely short-staffed and is having trouble answering 911 calls much less being able to do proactive traffic enforcement and respond to collisions,” said Precinct Three Constable Stacy Suits. “So our idea was to come up with a short-term interlocal with the City to have deputy constables work targeted…areas within city limits.”
The plan calls for the addition of 30 constable positions in Travis County.
As all new things do – this costs money.
APD and ATD proposed the plan in response to a resolution instructing the departments to look into alternatives to curb traffic fatality numbers in the wake of APD’s low staffing levels. In order for it to move forward, Travis County Commissioners would have to approve the decision as part of the next budget process, according to the memo. From there, ATD funds would supplement the costs.
“The human tragedy you see if you have to pull people out severely injured, just because someone is trying to save a few minutes,” said Constable Suits.
The Travis County Commission is set to come out with its preliminary budget within the next two weeks.
You can view the full memo below.