AUSTIN, Texas - A former U.S. Army interpreter is struggling to support his family after a vehicle slammed into his on MoPac Sunday, Oct. 16.
Haitham Nassar worked as an English teacher in Amman, Jordan. During the war in Iraq, he worked for the International Oil Trading Center supervising convoys of fuel and other supplies to American military bases. Through the IOTC, he connected with the U.S. military and began working for the Army as an interpreter.
In 2017 Nassar came to the United States. He was drawn to Central Texas as his staff sergeant lives in Pflugerville. Nassar, caught up in immigration proceedings, began driving Uber to support his mother, two young children, and step-child.
"We work day by day. Like, what do you get? You pay for the bills for your house. I have kids. I support my mom. So whatever you get, you immediately spend it. So if you don't go to the street, and you don't go to work, that means you have nothing. You will not be able to pay any bills. Anything," he explained.
Nassar, who is known as the "Karaoke driver," shares videos of his passengers singing karaoke on YouTube.
"It’s made me feel that I am doing something for other people to make them happy, to make them feel good," he said.
In the past month, his cameras prepped for karaoke, have captured two crashes. Both crashes totaled Nassar’s vehicles.
In September, Nassar swerved to avoid a car that pulled out in front of him and crashed. He said insurance covered some, but not all the money needed to replace his vehicle. Still, he scraped together enough cash to do so. Sunday, around 2:30 a.m., a driver slammed into and totaled his replacement vehicle on MoPac.
"He was driving so fast, and I don't know how he lost control in his car and he came straight and hit me from the back. It was so scary because I have a passenger with me also, and she was so scared," he said.
Nassar and his passenger were unharmed. He said the man driving the other vehicle "walked away."
"[Police] didn't find him. And it was in a highway. So there's nowhere to go."
Austin police were unable to share details about the crash Tuesday. A spokesperson only confirmed the crash occurred.
Having taken a large financial hit replacing his first car, Nassar said the deductible to replace the second is "too high, and I don’t have [the money] anyway." He does not know how, or if, he will be able to afford a new vehicle. This leaves him without a job.
"I have nothing," he said. "You have kids. Life is not easy. They raise the rent. Like it's too much. Everything is expensive now, and you need to work harder to provide this food to this table. And I have three tables. Not one."
Nassar said he feels Austin roads have become more dangerous since he started driving Uber. He is asking Austin drivers to be mindful of others and not drink and drive.
As of Wednesday evening, there had been 10,017 crashes in this year in Austin, according to Vision Zero. Nearly twice the number of crashes there were on that date in 2021.
In 2021, the Austin Police Department suspended its motors and DWI Units due to staffing.
Officers from the specialized units were moved to patrol "because we just don't have enough people to do that work," said Austin Police Association Thomas Villarreal.
FOX 7 Austin asked Villarreal "whose doing [DWI enforcement] now?" He replied, "Yeah, no one's doing it now. That's the crazy thing."
Villarreal explained that in an "ideal situation" a regular patrol officer would have enough time to respond to 9-1-1 calls and look for intoxicated drivers. However, he said staffing makes that challenging.
"We have calls that are stacking up, and you never have downtime from 9-1-1 calls for service, and you're going to call, call, call. Sometimes we're going from priority call to priority call and never making it to the lower priority calls," he said.
As of Wednesday, the department had 293 hard vacancies, as 111 are the result of leave.
Response times for priority zero "hot shot", the highest priority calls, are currently over nine minutes. They were around six minutes in 2016.
University of New Haven research supports department "target goals" of 6 minutes and 30 seconds for priority zero calls. Robberies, burglaries, and shots fired calls show the best outcomes with response times of less than 6 minutes and 12 seconds.
"To live in the States, it’s a dream for everyone. What you can do here, you can't do it in different places. So this is amazing. This is nice to be here, but they make it difficult. So the system make it difficult," said Nassar.