The Austin Police Department’s No Refusal policy extends through Halloween tonight, which the Austin Police Department expects will lead to a higher number of DWI arrests.
APD DWI Coordinator Mike Jennings said because Halloween falls on a Monday, the Department decided to extend the No Refusal policy for four days, from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Friday through Monday. The policy means even if a driver refuses a breathalyzer, the police will apply for a search warrant for blood samples, which the driver can’t refuse.
Jennings encouraged people going out on Halloween to plan ahead and find a safe ride home. Jennings also said the DWI arrestees usually aren’t college students because many students use public transportation or ride-hailing services to get home.
“There’s always something going on here in Austin,” Jennings said. “Our thing is not trying to prevent people from enjoying those deals, but what we do want people to understand is if you are going to go out, just find another ride home.”
Jennings said a lot of people don’t actually understand what No Refusal means.
“If we get a search warrant, you don’t have an option at that point,” Jennings said. “That’s why it’s called No Refusal.”
Humanities and Spanish senior Raquel Burgett is the president of Sober Behind the Wheel, an organization that started last semester as a memorial to a student who died in a drunk driving accident.
Burgett said her organization tries to approach the issue of drunk driving in a realistic way.
“We don’t want to tell anyone not to drink,” Burgett said. “We don’t want to tell anyone not to have a good time because realistically that’s not going to happen.”
Burgett said the organization has tried to prepare students for Halloween by spreading the message of planning for a safe way home, but she doesn’t expect everyone to follow
“We anticipate that this is going to be a big weekend of lessons and of unfortunate circumstances,” Burgett said.
Last year, Austin police made 41 DWI arrests during Halloween weekend, according to a press release.
“People don’t usually go out with the intention of committing DWIs,” Jennings said. “It’s one of those things that happens because you are out and haven’t planned well.”
Burgett said people sometimes overlook the risks when they’re dressed up and celebrating Halloween.
“Being in costume and not being yourself seems to give license to acting out of what you would consider to be your normal range of fun,” Burgett said. “Halloween is scary, and it’s not just because of the ghosts and goblins.”
Burgett also said that with the absence of Uber and Lyft, it’s a lot less convenient for students to find a way home.
“Without having the ease of transport like Uber and Lyft had, students feel like they don’t have much of a choice,” Burgett said. “There are options but a lot of those options [for example] include relying on an unreliable bus system in the middle of the night.”
Chemical engineering freshman Jake Byers helped his friends get home safe this weekend by being a designated driver.
“Sometimes it feels like a pain,” Byers said. “You don’t want to be the guy who’s singled out as having to drive, but it makes you feel good in a way that you’re able to take care of your friends and make sure everyone gets home safely.”