Crimewatch: New APD night time patrol unit

While you sleep a new unit of officers will be deployed to the major roadways in Austin with the goal of making your drive into work smoother and safer.

Two 18 wheelers collide along I-35 in South Austin. One trailer is hauling batteries which are now scattered all over the roadway. It happened just after midnight--lanes were closed for eight hours.

And what about this on the early morning traffic report: the southbound upper deck lanes of I-35 by Martin Luther King, Junior Boulevard are shut down. Rush hour drivers are forced to sit it out on the feeder.

Overnight accidents aren't just making life difficult for morning commuters. They are tying up patrol officers.

Prior to July, trained accident investigators had to be called in.

Lt. Derek Galloway says the issue was having an impact on 9-1-1 call response time.

"They're responding from their home. That can take them 35-45 minutes to show up at the scene. Well, that's time that patrol is blocking the scene off and not much of anything is getting done," said Galloway.

To address the problem, Galloway put together a special night time highway patrol shift.

It's comprised of six officers who work Tuesday through Saturday from dusk to dawn.

When they're not responding to crashes, Galloway says they work to prevent them by writing tickets.

According to police, the majority of traffic fatalities in Austin are happening along the major roadways between the hours of 6:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. The number one cause of deaths is alcohol followed by speed.

"We needed someone to be out there on the high speed roadways to slow the traffic down especially inbound traffic at night through Austin. For years we haven't had a night time highway response unit. With this unit we were hoping to accomplish those two things," said Galloway. "We're spacing them out along the freeway so that you can't just get past one and think okay there's nobody else out. We'll be running the whole stretch of road."

Galloway says within the first two weeks, his officers responded to 33 wrecks. He feels their presence alone is making an impact.

"I think any time at night when you see lights on a freeway, you're going to slow down," Galloway said.

Galloway hopes to expand the unit in the future.

"I think it is critical to keep this going because we have more people die on the roadways than at the hands of criminals so if you're number one killer of the citizens is traffic then I think we have to focus on traffic."

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