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APD pedestrian initiative yields results

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TWC News: APD pedestrian initiative yields results
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Already alarmed by a growing number of pedestrian fatalities, it was a personal experience that convinced Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo to act.

"This man was crossing a freeway with eight lanes to go shopping at Walmart,” the chief said during a press conference Thursday. “It was a shortcut. You know what? The only thing that's going to shorten is your lifespan."

That's why the chief launched a pedestrian safety initiative with his officers earlier this year. The city was on its way to double the number of traffic fatalities as last year.

"A good number of times, alcohol played a significant role in those fatalities," Acevedo said. "We were targeting both driver behavior and pedestrian behavior."

Since the program began, Austin police made more than 500 pedestrian-related traffic stops, issued 2,100 citations and made 92 arrests for drunk driving.

The results---pedestrian fatalities have dropped by two thirds, from about three per month, down to one.

However, police and victims' families say more needs to be done.

Courtney Griffin was struck by a car and killed during a morning walk in May of last year. Police say alcohol may be a factor in the crash. The driver, 25-year-old Gabrielle Nestande, fled the scene and now awaits trial for failure to stop and render aid.

Courtney’s father, Bart Griffin, thinks the 'failure to stop' law should carry tougher penalties.

"It's a serious loophole in the system," Griffin said. "That's the whole problem with failure to stop and render aid. Suspects leave the scene, they're gone for many hours, so it's impossible to actually check their level of alcohol."

Now families of victims of hit-and-runs, and the chief himself, are planning to lobby for tougher penalties in the upcoming legislative session.

Griffin says stricter laws would bring justice to not only his daughter, but thousands of others.

"When somebody leaves one of your loved ones to die on the side of the road, it changes things completely," Griffin said.

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