A combination of a police car and a taxi warns fiesta-goers not to drink and drive.
A combination of a police car and a taxi warns Fiesta-goers not to drink and drive during Fiesta Fiesta at Hemisfair in 2018. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Fiesta is nearly here, and San Antonians have already started collecting medals to don at the more than 100 events happening throughout the city for the 11-day food, booze, and fun-filled affair.

One of the most anticipated events of the year, Fiesta attracts 2.5 million partygoers from all over Texas and the United States, contributing more than $340 million in sales to the local economy, according to the Fiesta San Antonio Commission.

Unfortunately, Fiesta is not all fun and games, according to an analysis of seven years of Texas Department of Transportation crash data. Published last week by the Hill Law Firm in San Antonio, the report found a nearly 20 percent increase in the number of alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents in Bexar County during Fiesta.

The San Antonio Police Department, however, said no crashes during the period have been tied to Fiesta attendance.

The law firm’s report, compiled with assistance from digital content creator 1Point21 Interactive, looked at crash data from 2012-18 and found that Bexar County averaged 5.9 alcohol-related accidents per day in a given week, but during Fiesta, the average jumps to seven per day, with a 41 percent increase in resulting injuries.

“It’s no secret that San Antonio has one of the biggest problems in the state when it comes to drinking and driving fatalities,” said Justin Hill at the Hill Law Firm. “You can’t solve a problem if you don’t know what the problem is, so we compiled the report to help point out that we already had a concern here in San Antonio, and as a community we need to be extra conscious of the increased risk” of drinking and driving during Fiesta.

Bexar County had 2,016 alcohol-involved crashes in 2017, the third-highest rate in the state after Dallas (2,263) and Harris (2,896) counties. Of the 53 people who died in Bexar County as a result of their injuries, and one person died during Fiesta.

Four people died during Fiesta 2018, according to the Hill Law Firm report.

A spokesperson for SAPD told the Rivard Report that in the past eight years there have been no alcohol-related fatalities in Bexar County with any connection to Fiesta events.

“SAPD completes investigations for all fatal car accidents, and based on the data we have for the past eight years during the Fiesta time span, nothing came up during any investigation that indicated the victim or the suspect was coming from a Fiesta event at the time of the accident,” said Doug Greene, SAPD’s public information officer. “That being said, whether people are going to Fiesta or not, we do try even harder around that time to educate on the dangers of drunk driving.”

Greene said SAPD begins its awareness campaign before Fiesta kicks off, notifying the community that there will be a greater police presence by officers both in car and on foot who are looking for drunken driving. “We encourage people to use local transportation, rideshare, taxis, and to drink responsibly.”

With an increased presence from SAPD, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Department, and the San Antonio Fire Department during Fiesta 2018, 227 people were arrested on DWI charges in 2018, up from 224 the year before, according to SAPD.

“All we can do is continue to encourage people to make the right choice and not drink and drive,” Greene said.

From 2012 to 2018, there were 595 car crashes during Fiesta where alcohol was a factor, leading to 348 injuries and 13 deaths, according to the report. While crashes occur in neighborhoods and areas all over San Antonio and Bexar County, they happened most frequently within the vicinity of the airport, downtown, and South-Central San Antonio, the report said.

“Some people lose their lives to drunk driving, and some people lose [mobility] due to injuries sustained, they lose jobs and wages, they lose their vehicle. We all as partygoers and participants need to plan to keep our community safe, and it’s up to everyone. Make a plan sober so you don’t make a bad choice when drinking,” Hill said.

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza reports on health and bioscience for the San Antonio Report.