AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin drivers could now have to go to court and face hefty fines if they are involved in a ‘failure to yield’ crash that causes injuries.
Austin Transportation teamed up with the Austin Police Department and Municipal Court to make a procedural change in the way failure to yield citations are documented and processed.
The change was announced on Tuesday.
“We have to all figure out how to all live together without this happening every day,” Jay Crossley, the director for Vision Zero Texas said.
For Crossley, making sure everyone on the road is safe is his top priority after he was hit by a drunk driver 20 years ago.
“We were in a car and actually stopped at the light at Sixth Street and Lamar Boulevard and a kid, it was like an 18-year-old kid, was drunk and being chased by police and hit us going 70 mph,” Crossley said. “Magically, no one was hurt.”
Crossley created the nonprofit Farm&City four years ago to work with the state, cities and counties to form policies aimed to tackle transportation issues. And as the director of Vision Zero Texas, he’s working to end all traffic deaths.
“People don’t realize that even just two times a day in the city of Austin someone is hurt because of someone else failing to yield,” Crossley said.
City transportation officials confirmed that number. Officials said there are around 800 people who are involved in a failure to yield crash every year.
“Failure to yield is that one driver behavior that we are really trying to address related to injury crashes,” Lewis Leff, the department’s transportation safety officer said. “This gives us a chance to increase the fines, increase the penalties to make sure people are aware this is a serious thing and it’s going to be taken seriously moving forward.”
Fines could be up to $4,000.
“We all need to take responsibility for this crisis, Crossley said. “Some of those people are killed and some of them are seriously injured forever and the families that go through these crises feel like nothing happens, and it feels like the process doesn’t do anything. It feels like people just get out of it.”
Previously, officers have always been able to write notes about injuries on a citation but city transportation officials said this new form of documentation will ensure a prosecutor is aware.
“I think the key question for the community is do we want everybody to get where they are going or do we want some people to get there as fast as they can get there,” Leff said.
The new process will give Austin police officers the option to select failure to yield with injury or failure to yield with serious injury. Flagging the citations to make sure prosecutors are aware of the extent of the crash, so that way when the driver goes to court, the prosecutor will review the case and determine the proper penalties.
“In a way, for the families who have been through this, having their pain be on the record and be part of the process is helpful,” Crossley explained. “It would mean people aren’t getting out of things and you will face the appropriate state fines for what you’ve done.”