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Drunk Driving Growing Concern In Communities Surrounding Austin

Updated: Tuesday, August 5 2014, 05:58 PM CDT

As options for safe rides become more available in the Austin area many residents and police officers believe the same thing is not happening in smaller cities surrounding the capital city. 

The issue is becoming more of a concern for police and business owners in Lakeway and Bee Cave. 

James Dinwoodie opened Fore Restaurant in Lakeway after he left his job on 6th Street as a bar manager and bartender.  He said he thought when he left he would be free of the drunk-driving dangers that sometimes come along with working downtown, but he was wrong. 

"So what I feel is we don't have the same resources that Downtown Austin has like the access to taxi services and the access to having a safe ride home for individuals we feel who shouldn't be driving," Dinwiddie said. 

Recently after a night at his restaurant, he saw a heartbreaking example with an intoxicated customer that made him realize something had to be done to keep people safe on the roads. 

"As they were trying to get in their vehicle I noticed that in the backseat that there were two child seats, and he said I can't call a cab they wouldn't come out here so I ended up driving him home to Hudson Bend and on the way back there was a bad accident in front of Sandy's Burger Hut and it really made me think that that could have been this gentleman, it could have been somebody else with kids that he hit and caused that accident," he said. 

Driving home drunk is a risk Dinwiddie believes more people are willing to take because many cab companies won't come out to the outlying communities or charge a flat fee to pick them up. 

Officers with the Bee Cave and Lakeway police departments have also noticed the trend. 

"When I worked night shift patrol I don't think I ever saw a cab in Bee Cave, maybe two times in five years," Officer William Pitmon with BCPD said. 

Patrol Officer Jeff Brennecke with Lakeway Police Department said he's also seen a similar problem.  

"I've called for taxis for people at bars that haven't driven yet but they don't need to be driving home and sometimes it takes an hour or more for them to get out," he said. 

LPD Chief Todd Radford said because of the issue they've seen DWI numbers increase. 

Lakeway officers have already made more DWI arrests so far this year than they did for the entire year of 2013.  Out of the 31 DWI convictions three of the drivers had children in the car when they were pulled over, which is also an increase compared to last year. 

"Our enforcement numbers this year will be about double what they were last year," Radford said. 

"There's not very many alternatives for people that come out here, drink to an excess and then try to drive home or find a way home.  One of the things that it really comes down to is individual responsibility, you have to figure out a way to make proper decisions that are gonna keep yourself and keep others safe," he said. 

In Bee Cave this year police have made nine DWI arrests so far.  In 2013, there were 20 total arrests for DWI.  Officer Pitmon says he believes as the community grows the issue of drunk driving will do the same. 

"What I would say to the community is if you don't have that plan in place then don't come out and drink, stay at home," Pitmon said. 

Pitmon also said when officers notice patrons in parking lots about to get behind the wheel and intervene by calling a cab it ties the officer up on that call for far too long.

"It's wasting tax dollars waiting when we could be doing something else," he said. 

Until more resources for safe rides become available business owners like Dinwoodie say one way to solve the problem could be with transportation networks like Lyft and Uber. 

"I was contacted with a couple of people with Lyft offering their services which I think is a great idea adding those resources and adding more and more options for people is gonna be what cures the problem," he said.

Drunk Driving Growing Concern In Communities Surrounding Austin

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