Texas Aims To Decrease Traffic-Related Fatalities
Even with the COVID-19 pandemic keeping Texas roads at times all but empty, our state has not been able to go a single day without a traffic fatality in almost 20 years.
According to an article appearing in the Waco Tribune-Herald, Texas still has time to break the deadly cycle- if it can do it by November 7th.
Texas Transportation Commissioner Laura Ryan told Tribune-Herald reporter Rhiannon Saegert that 90% of the accidents were entirely preventable.
“The families of those that have died will bear this responsibility forever,” Ryan said.
Despite widespread efforts by law enforcement and government officials to raise public awareness, Ryan laments that there has been no appreciable reduction in the number of deaths on Texas roads.
A Texas Transportation Institute study found that an average of 10 people every day will be killed in a motor vehicle accident in our state. The reasons behind this high number are manifold. Ryan believes it is because motorists are driving at higher speeds and are often distracted or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
It is also a well-known fact that seatbelts save lives, and yet according to the study, there has been a 27% increase in Texas roadway deaths due to motorists or passengers not wearing them. In 2019, more than 900 people died in auto accidents without their seatbelts fastened.
“We’ve become OK with taking someone’s keys, yet we have almost become too polite, in that we feel it’s not our business to tell somebody to buckle up, slow down, or refuse to ride with somebody who continues to check their phone,” Ryan added.
The problem, according to Ryan, isn’t across the entire state. Last year, 23 Texas counties did manage to get through the entire year without any roadway fatalities. “So it is possible,” Ryan said.
Texas Department of Transportation officials had hoped to break the near-20-year streak of traffic fatalities during the beginning of the pandemic. With stay-at-home orders in place, Texas did see a 44% drop in traffic overall. However, with the roads mostly empty, there was a sharp increase in the speeds that motorists drove at.
“It wasn’t just speeding,” Ryan said, “It was reckless speeding. It was all-out.”
Ryan hopes that with added funding for rumble strips, median barriers, and improved pedestrian walkways, somehow, the number of fatalities in Texas can be reduced.