A look at the success of APD’s ‘No Refusal’ program

Breathalyzer test being done by Austin officer (KXAN photo)
Breathalyzer test being done by Austin officer (KXAN photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin police say their ‘No Refusal’ DWI enforcement is helping make stronger cases against drunk and drugged drivers. What the department can’t say is if fewer people are driving impaired or dying in fatal crashes caused by impaired drivers because of the program.

The Austin Police Department said they arrest anywhere between 5,500 and 6,000 people each year for DWI. APD Detective Richard Mabe said that number has remained consistent the last few years despite the ‘No Refusal’ program’s expansion.

RELATED: ‘No refusal’ now in effect every weekend through September

“I’m not sure if there’s ever a true way that we’re going to be able to say 100 percent definitively that our decline, if we reach that, is due to the ‘No Refusal’ or not,” said Det. Mabe. “I think that, with ‘No Refusal,’ the only true way to know if it’s working would be to find everybody that did not get arrested for DWI the night before and say, ‘Did you choose not to drink and drive because you knew it was ‘No Refusal,’ or take those same persons who did happen to get arrested and say, ‘Did you know it was a ‘No Refusal’ weekend prior to going out or prior to getting arrested.'”

Det. Mabe said there is one benefit he’s seen from the program that is hard to argue with, the collection of stronger, more reliable evidence in cases involving DWI.

“I would hate for a case to be where they couldn’t go forward or it was something [more] that we could have done as far as getting them evidence and then we didn’t get it,” Det. Mabe said.

The program used to only run on holiday weekends known to see a spike in drunk and impaired driving. This year, the program has been running every weekend.

Det. Mabe said while it’s difficult to say if “No Refusal” weekends are effective in preventing deadly impaired driving crashes, it’s also hard to say that they’re aren’t effective, so staying proactive in their approach is the right thing to do.

The initiative will continue to run every weekend through September, or longer, if the department has the money to do so.

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