A Plea For Common Sense After The SXSW Tragedy

Austin is known for our partying ways. Maybe we can start being known for being responsible after partying?

On Wednesday, March 12th - technically Thursday morning-, on Red River just outside the Mohawk music venue, a drunk driver racing to avoid a DUI checkpoint drove into a crowd and killed two innocent people and injured many, many more.


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The suspect's name is Rasheed Owens of Killeen, who fled from the scene after the crash, was subdued by Austin police officers and now faces two counts of capital murder and 23 counts of aggravated assault with a vehicle. He also has an outstanding arrest warrant in Alaska, of all places, from a case of criminal mischief in 2012.

Austin is known for its live music, its iconoclastic nature, it's blend of Libertarian and Progressive political philosophies and its proudly displayed reputation for being "weird". However, it's also known for its propensity for late night partying and alcohol consumption. This isn't something we, as a city, should be ashamed of, as Austin has shown itself, through both the local business community as well as the local police force, to be atypically responsible in this regard.

However, the two people who lost their lives and the others who were seriously hurt that night show that we have a ways to go. We here at Austin.com offer our condolences to their family and their friends. The word "tragedy" gets kicked around in the media more often than a hacky sack at a Phish concert, but in this instance, it's appropriate. Rasheed Owens could have called for a cab or gotten a sober friend to drive him home or, at the very least, let the police take him in - and as stiff as the penalties are for DUI's, I'm fairly sure they're not nearly as severe as those for murder.

Especially in Texas.

It's neigh-impossible to eliminate drunk driving from our roads - short of eliminating either drinking or driving. Drinking, also, rarely prevents bad ideas from becoming actions - "I should get behind the wheel of this car and then hit the gas when the cops pull me over" is a way more likely scenario than "Hey, I think I just figured out how to cure AIDS" after drinking a number of cocktails.

But rather than take drastic, knee-jerk legal measures after this horrible event, the best thing we can do, as a city and as a community and as a culture we've spent decades developing, is to try a little harder - no, a lot harder - to instill the mindset that it's OK to leave your car where it is for the night and get someone else to drive. 


Tags: SXSW, safety, South by Southwest, DUI, drinking, law

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