Celebrate responsibly Memorial Day weekend, law enforcement is watching

TCSO boat patrol (KXAN photo)
TCSO boat patrol (KXAN photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Memorial Day holiday weekend kicks off Friday. While area roads are expected to busy, this year The Texas Department of Public Safety, Travis County Sheriff’s Office and other police departments will be handing out special bookmarks to drivers who get pulled over. It tells the story of John Merritt who was killed by a drunk driver in Travis County in 2008. The hope is by having drivers read about the family’s loss it will make others reconsider getting behind the wheel after drinking.

“The drivers will be given one of these bookmarks in remembrance of this gentleman who died over Memorial Day weekend, just a reminder of driving safe, not being involved in a traffic crash, the goal is voluntary compliance,” says DPS trooper Robbie Barrera.

Last year, DPS wrote 45,000 tickets statewide. Almost 400 people were arrested for DWI and more than 800 were cited for not wearing a seat belt.

Starting Friday at 9 p.m. Austin police will kick off a two week no refusal initiative. That means, if you’re pulled over and suspected of drunk driving, an officer can get a warrant for a blood sample on the spot. It will be in effect through June 12 from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. every night. The Austin Police Department says it’s for the Memorial Day weekend, through the Republic of Texas Motorcycle Rally. Last year 107 people were arrested during that two week period. When it ends, APD will hold no refusals on weekends only through September.

On the lakes, extra patrols will be out. They’ll be looking for more than boaters who are driving drunk, things like making sure anyone on your boat who is under the age of 13 needs to be wearing a life jacket when the boat is moving. Troopers don’t need probable cause to stop someone on the lake.

“That’s the first thing we get, why are you stopping me. We can stop anybody at any time to make sure they have all of their safety equipment and to make sure it’s functioning properly,” said TCSO Senior Deputy Michael Spinner.

In 2016, seven people drowned on Lake Travis; so far two lives have been lost in 2017. TCSO said the number one reason for fatalities on the lake, the person wasn’t wearing a flotation device. In fact, the last person who drowned was holding one, but then let go and went under the water.

The bodies of nine people who have disappeared into the depths of Lake Travis in the past 40 years have never been found.

Kate Weidaw is LIVE at Lake Austin with details about the increased patrols on KXAN News Today

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