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Andrew Traub
|Accidents

2021 could be record year in traffic deaths

Two people killed in a crash early Thursday and a pedestrian who died this week after a hit-and-run in South Austin bring the number of Austin’s traffic deaths so far this year to 91.

With the three new deaths, 2021 already surpasses 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 in number of people killed in Austin traffic in a year. In 2019, a total of 88 people were killed in traffic accidents, and, in 2020, police recorded 94 such deaths.

In Thursday’s deadly incident, Austin- Travis County EMS medics at about 1:30 a.m. responded to the intersection of 41st Street and Medical Parkway, just south of 45th Street, after a vehicle had crashed against a building that had a possible gas leak.

Two of the three people involved in the crash were killed, medics said. The third person was taken to Dell Seton Medical Center with potentially serious injuries.

Later Thursday, police identified a pedestrian who died this week as 52year-old Terryn Dee Strahan. Investigators said she was walking southbound in the 5100 block of South Congress Avenue, north of Stassney Lane, on Sept. 19 at around 8:16 p.m.

A driver in a vehicle heading north hit Strahan and left the scene without helping the woman or calling 911, police said.

Strahan was taken to a hospital, where she died at 12:55 a.m. Monday. Police are asking the public for more information about the case. Those with tips can call police at 512-974-8111 or Crime Stoppers at 512-472-8477, or submit tips through the Crime Stoppers app or the Austin PD app.

With three months left in the year, it’s possible Austin surpass 2020’s historically high annual traffic death toll of 94. Austin’s highest number of traffic deaths were 102 people killed in 2015.

Police have said traffic deaths in Austin have four main causes: speeding, impairment, distracted driving and failure to yield.

The day before Strahan was hit, another person died because of a motorist who police said had been driving while intoxicated.

The victim, whom police have not yet identified, was on a stand-up electric scooter heading south the 1400 block of Newfield Lane, near Enfield Road.

The person on the scooter was hit by a white Chevrolet driven by 25-year-old Lee Anne Lafaye Nash. Nash was driving northbound on Newfield Lane.

Both Nash and the scooter driver were in the same lane when the crash occurred, police said.

The scooter driver was pronounced dead at the scene and Nash was arrested for driving while intoxicated, police said.

Police are hoping to address impaired driving with a yearlong no-refusal initiative starting Oct. 1. Drunken driving accounts for about a third of all fatal crashes in Austin, police said.

During no-refusal periods, police can more easily obtain search warrants for blood or breath samples from suspected drunken drivers who refuse to take blood alcohol tests.

Under Texas’ “implied consent” law, simply having a state driver’s license means you’ve consented to an alcohol or drug test if requested by a law enforcement officer. Refusing to submit to a breath test can lead to a suspension of your license.

Every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday between Oct. 1 and the end of September 2022 will be no-refusal days, police said.

“No-refusal is not about making as many arrests as we can,” Austin Police Assistant Chief Robin Henderson said in a statement. “It’s a deterrent to keep impaired drivers off of Austin’s roadways and keep the public safe. No-refusal ensures that we have solid blood alcohol content evidence in every DWI arrest and, as such, enhances the ability to prosecute drunk drivers.”


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