The team is called the Impaired Driving Action Team, or "IDAT". The group has met twice since it first formed in October with plans to meet quarterly for at least a year, according to an Austin Public Health spokesperson.
Approximately two dozen organizations participate in meetings: AAA Texas, ATCEMS, Austin Police Department, City of Austin Housing and Planning Development, Communities for Recovery, Del Valle ISD, Dell Medical School, Federal Highway Administration, IntegralCare, MADD, Mobility Blueprint, People's Community Clinic, RTI International, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, Texas Department of State Health Services, Texas Department of Transportation, Texas Transportation Institute, The Sobering Center, Travis County Adult Probation, Travis County Court, Travis County District Attorney's Office, Travis County Sheriff's Office, Travis County Underage Drinking Prevention Program, University of Texas at Austin, and Vision Zero.
$20,000 is being pulled from Austin Public Health’s general fund for the project.
TxDOT data shows a 71 percent increase in DUI related deaths in Travis County from 2011 to 2021. The county grew approximately 22 percent in that same timeframe according to US Census Bureau data.
A new CDC report shows alcohol related deaths are on the rise nationwide. They increased approximately 30 percent in the first year of the pandemic.
- 59 DWI-related arrests made during Austin City Limits festival weekends
- 141 DWI arrests made during 2022 Fourth of July Enforcement Initiative
- Travis County judge who oversees DWI cases arrested for DWI
"Alcohol use rates often go up in those types of crises." said Nicole Holt, CEO of nonprofit Texans for Safe and Drug-free Youth.
Holt, a member of IDAT, said she believes pandemic-era policy changes such as alcohol to-go and increased delivery options are also to blame.
The announcement comes one year after the Austin Police Department indefinitely suspended its Motors and DWI Enforcement Teams, citing staffing challenges.
Officers from the specialized units were moved to patrol "because we just don't have enough people to do that work." Austin Police Association President Thomas Villarreal told FOX 7 Austin in October.
FOX 7 Austin asked Villarreal "who's doing [DWI enforcement] now?" He replied, "Yeah, no one's doing it now. That's that's the crazy thing."
He said the department’s current staffing shortage leaves patrol officers without little time to conduct DWI enforcement.
An Austin Police spokesperson shared the following data with FOX 7 Austin Thursday showing DWI arrests in 2022.
- January: 220
- February: 227
- March: 266
- April: 290
- May: 277
- June: 255
- July: 271
- August: 262
- September: 226
- October: 260
- 2022 YTD: 2554
Wayne Vincent, retired president of the Austin Police Association told FOX 7 Austin, "what I'm looking at (for IDAT) is bullet points that talk about just consultants and studies and these kind of things. We know what the problem is. And there's nothing wrong with studying the problem. But if you're not going to put the enforcement resources out there, it does very little good."