APD announces yearlong ‘No Refusal’ Initiative to curb impaired driving

Leila Saidane, News Reporter

The Austin Police Department will begin to implement its yearlong “No Refusal Initiative” in October in an effort to curb the number of wrecks by impaired drivers.  

The program allows police to obtain blood samples via a search warrant on Thursdays through Sundays and certain holidays if a suspected impaired driver refuses a sobriety test. 

Austin reported more than 1,250 DWI-related arrests in 2020 during other “No Refusal” initiatives, which were enacted for holidays or events, according to a Sept. 16 press release. APD has reported 91 traffic deaths this year, surpassing records from 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. The press release also noted that substance impaired drivers are involved in more than one-third of Austin’s fatal crashes. 

“No Refusal is not about making as many arrests as we can,” assistant chief Robin Henderson said in the press release. “It’s a deterrent to keep impaired drivers off of Austin’s roadways and keep the public safe.”

The Austin Transportation Department will partner with APD to provide funding, strategic crash analysis and information on dates and locations where impaired driving crashes occurred, according to the press release. 

Rueben Gonzales, professor of pharmacology and toxicology, researches the effects of alcohol on the brain. He said policies like “No Refusal” will decrease the amount of impaired drivers. 

Since alcohol impairs judgement and motor skills, underage drinkers may experience substantial effects from alcohol, Gonzales said.  

“The problem is not drinking per se, and the problem is not driving per se, it’s both,” Gonzales said. “Policies that reduce (impaired driving) will save lives and help people in the long run, because it can have devastating consequences to individuals and their families.”

Textiles and apparel freshman Emily Wager drives on campus and said she’s unsure if “No Refusal” will make a difference on the amount of people who drive under the influence. 

“I feel like the cops won’t be able to catch an impaired driver any sooner than (the driver) would hurt somebody,” Wager said. “It’s a step in the right direction, but I don’t think it’ll make too much of an impact.” 

APD will also implement “No Refusal” days for events like Austin City Limits Music Festival and South by Southwest, as well as multiple holidays throughout the year. 

“Alcohol is a poison,” Gonzales said. “I think students don’t always know and understand that. People need to be responsible with the outcome (of drinking and driving).”