Austin police chief speak of record fatality crashes; encourages parents to warn children of drinking and driving

I-35 Wrong Way Crash

I-35 Wrong Way Crash

Aug. 24, 2015 – KVUE NEWS — Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo is asking parents to talk with their children to not only discourage them from drinking and driving, but to also explain the dangers of getting in a car with a drunk driver.

According to an arrest affidavit, 23-year-old Michelle Orduna, who was out celebrating a birthday, and her passenger, 23-year-old Megan Mendez, got onto the southbound lanes of I-35 at around 2:30 a.m. going the wrong way in a Toyota Camry.  Due to her condition, field sobriety tests could not be performed, but her blood alcohol content was .17 percent. Orduna is charged with intoxication manslaughter, a second-degree felony, with bond set at $100,000.

The Camry hit a man head-on near Airport Boulevard where the highway splits into the upper and lower decks. The man, identified Friday by police as 26-year-old Clayton Matthew Keller, died at the scene. Both women were taken to the hospital with critical injuries, and Mendez died the next day.  The crash is Austin’s 65th deadly accident so far this year. A total of 69 people have been killed since Jan. 1. There were only 55 fatal crashes in 2014.

“Enough is enough,” said Acevedo, calling for change. He said there needs to be consequences for everyone who plays a role in DWI crashes, starting with the people who cause them.

“Life’s about choices,” he said, “everybody knows that drinking and driving absolutely do not mix.”  He’s also calling on juries to crack down on convicted drunk drivers.  “One of the challenges that we have in this community is we’re a very forgiving community,” said Acevedo as he referenced specific cases where suspected drunk drivers were sentenced to probation. “Someone runs over a pedestrian, probably under the influence at the time, and claims that it’s a deer that they thought they hit and they get probation. We have to hold people accountable, there has to be consequences.”

In addition, Acevedo said bars and restaurants that over-serve customers should also face punishment.  “To the bars that over-serve these young people, that serve these young people in the first place, you know I’ll be the first to say that I hope somehow you’re held, not just liable by TABC in terms of licensing, but I hope somehow you get help liable in terms of civil liability for not having responsible business practices. For caring more about the bar tab and how much we can sell then the lives that you’re going to impact when you let young people come in there and you over-serve them,” said Acevedo.

He encouraged people to call the police if they see bartenders over-serving customers and if they see drunk drivers on the road.

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