AUSTIN (KXAN) — The number of serious crashes involving unlicensed drivers in Austin has gone up compared to a 2015 report. In 2016, there were 477 serious injury crashes and 81 of them, or 17 percent, involved unlicensed drivers. That’s up from 2015 with 16 percent and 2014 from 12 percent.
In our original report, an Austin police commander said it was his priority to deal with the issue of unlicensed drivers on Austin roads. Now, two years later, the city is finally one step closer to dealing with the issue.
The Austin City Council Health and Human Services Committee will discuss a new city ordinance that would impound any car that was driven by someone with a suspended license or no license at all. In September, an Austin police officer was killed after a crash that involved a driver who had a suspended license.
“I think the council has to have a serious conversation about what to do when drivers are pulled over that are unlicensed, knowing that a large percentage of deaths are because of drivers without a license,” Council Member for District 8, Ellen Troxclair says.
Troxclair thinks the biggest issue with the delay in changes for an ordinance comes because of split priorities on protecting undocumented immigrants living in Austin and protecting Austinites on roads.
“I think that there are competing priorities here, the city adopted a vision zero plan with a goal to get to zero traffic fatalities,” Troxclair says. “They have been reluctant to address one of the main causes of those fatalities, which is unlicensed drivers because of the potential impact on illegal immigrants that are living here in this sanctuary city.”
Troxclair anticipates the proposed ordinance will come to a standstill after the committee meeting, not moving forward to the council agenda.
“Sometimes the council has a tendency to make a politically correct or the feel good choice or non-decision as the case may be. I think that this will probably be one of those issues or one of those times that the council is probably most likely going to refuse to deal with the issue that the data clearly lays out,” Troxclair said.
The proposed ordinance was removed from the committee’s agenda on Tuesday, according to Council Member Delia Garza, who said city staff needed more time.