Texas Leads US in Road Deaths. How Will Our Lawmakers Respond?

by Terry Bryant

The unfortunate statistics continue to show that Texas leads the nation in road deaths. Every day since November 7th, 2000, at least one person has been killed on our state’s roadways. In 2017 alone, 3,722 people died, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association. A recent article in The Texas Tribune reported on what the Texas Legislature is doing to combat the unacceptable number of fatalities from motor vehicle accidents across the state.

Efforts to Curb Highway Deaths

The Tribune article concluded that our state government’s actions have shown mixed results in curbing highway fatalities. Here are some of the bills related to improving traffic safety that are currently in the legislature, and how they are progressing (or not progressing):

  • House Bill 1287—This bill would automatically lower the speed limit from 30 miles per hour to 25 mph on streets that don’t have marked speed limits. It currently has bipartisan support among lawmakers and is awaiting debate and a vote by the full House of Representatives.
  • House Bill 1289—This “common-sense” bill would require drivers to stop and yield for people legally crossing in crosswalks, barring drivers from trying to intimidate pedestrians to hurry up by inching forward or even bumping them. According to the Tribune’s report, there isn’t open opposition to the bill, but it has been inexplicably stalled without a committee hearing.
  • Senate Bill 43—SB43 calls for a statewide ban on handheld cell phones and other electronic handheld devices while driving. Only hands-free phones and electronic devices would be allowed. Many cities in Texas already have such bans in place, however this bill has not yet received a committee hearing by the Senate.

The Texas Department of Transportation has a social media campaign in place called #EndTheStreakTX, which seeks to enlighten the public about the daily deaths on our roadways. However, without enough support for change from lawmakers and from drivers themselves, the streak may well continue.

Bad Drivers Share the Blame

State legislators do not solely shoulder the blame for not doing enough to decrease traffic accidents and fatalities… Bad drivers who are reluctant to change their behaviors are also responsible for many of the crashes that cause injuries and fatalities. NHTSA data for 2017 shows that among traffic deaths in Texas of that year, 1,468, or 39%, involved alcohol-impaired driving.

Other bad driving behaviors that lead to many fatalities include:

Distracted driving: TxDot data shows that more than 100,000 accidents in 2017 were caused by distracted drivers. These crashes killed 444 people and seriously injured nearly 2,900 more.

Speeding: Nationwide, speeding killed 9,700 people in 2017, making it one of the most dangerous driving behaviors. Data shows that many speeding drivers are also drunk drivers.

Other bad driving behaviors that bring danger to others sharing the roads include tailgating, speeding up for yellow lights, running through stop signs, not adequately checking blind spots, cutting off other vehicles, and not using turn signals.