APD notes increase in accidents as city combatted icy streets

AddThis

Frost-covered roads following Friday’s wintry weather led to more than 400 accidents in and around the Austin area, according to the Austin Police Department. The subfreezing weather that began Tuesday afternoon did not result in dangerous conditions until precipitation caused the roads to become slick and icy beginning late Thursday night. Nearly 205 reported collisions occurred between 10 p.m. Thursday and 6 a.m. Friday, and more than 121 additional collisions occurred between 6 a.m. and 1 p.m. Friday, mostly from people driving too fast for the weather conditions, said APD Lt. Wayne Demoss. Texans who aren’t accustomed to driving in icy weather also contributed to the rise in accidents around Austin, said UT Police Department Sgt. Jose Peña. “The roads seem like they’re very clear and, all of a sudden, drivers will hit shady areas,” he said. “That’s what happened on Dean Keeton [Street] with all of the buildings blocking the sun — the areas were still frozen, and some drivers weren’t being too careful when driving through them.” UTPD did not receive any reports of collisions on campus before 1 p.m. Friday, Peña said. “It’s definitely because classes were canceled — it reduced the volume of traffic,” Peña said. “All the surrounding areas have a steady flow of traffic, so that’s where all the accidents were.” UTPD normally responds to about two to three accidents per day, and nine vehicles crashed on Dean Keeton Street at around 1:30 p.m. Friday, said UTPD Sgt. Wayne Coffey. “Speed has a lot to do with it,” he said. “People aren’t paying attention to the changing road conditions.” None of the collisions and traffic accidents in Austin resulted in fatalities or injuries because they were mostly fender-benders, he said. Roads and intersections were closed for deicing Friday, including 15th Street and Lamar Boulevard, and sections of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, San Antonio, Cesar Chavez and Nueces streets. “When we have weather like this, we don’t like to close roads because if you close a main road, people will just get on side streets, which are even worse than the main roads because they don’t get any deicing,” Demoss said. “We try not to close any of the major thoroughfares if we don’t have to, the rule has been if a sand truck can get up there to it, then we won’t close it, but there were some areas on Friday that were just too steep to get to.” Sand trucks ran through the night and morning to increase traction on the roads, especially on areas going uphill or downhill, he said. A large number of calls came in to assist motorists who didn’t get into collisions, but were stuck in an icy area and couldn’t move, Demoss said. “Everybody thinks that accidents can’t happen to them, but yes they will — and they do. I would dare to say that a lot of people who were on the road didn’t really have to be but chose to be,” Demoss said. APD Cmdr. Jason Dusterhoft said when it began snowing, people didn’t realize there was ice underneath overpasses and in areas sand trucks had not reached. “People were driving too fast and weren’t slowing down quick enough, and they’d lose control of their cars on the ice,” Dusterhoft said. Prior to the storm Thursday night, the freezing temperatures did not cause the number of traffic accidents to rise higher than normal, Dusterhoft said. “We haven’t really had any issues before [Thursday],” Dusterhoft said. “We had to close several intersections Friday morning and overpasses due to how much ice was there, and until the trucks got there we couldn’t open them up. Most locations, if not all, were open by noon.” Drivers may get another chance to hone their skills when another cold front hits the Austin area Wednesday. --- Snow accidents UTPD reported a nine-car accidents off of Dean Keeton Street. APD reported more than 325 accidents between Thursday and Friday. Travis County Sheriff’s Office reported about 90 accidents. 0 fatalities or serious injuries