Texas has been on a mission for the last few years to end the streak of daily deaths on local roadways. While many see this is an achievable goal, traffic fatalities continue to occur on roadways across the state despite drastic changes in traffic patterns from the coronavirus pandemic.
Between January 1 and April 15, the number of traffic accidents dropped about 11 percent in 2020 compared to 2019 in metro areas like Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Houston. However, in the same areas, the number of traffic fatalities only dropped by 3 percent in the same time frame.
While further analysis and information is needed to fully understand what causes these roadway deaths, many are quick to address that normal traffic patterns have been disrupted by the pandemic. The data from the crashes in 2020 also suggests that failing to stay in one lane, speeding, and distracted driving contribute to these avoidable crashes and fatalities.
Since November 7, 2000, Texas has not seen a day without a traffic fatality. On average, the state sees around 10 deaths a day from accidents on the road. With the Texas Department of Transportation, or TxDOT, releasing its campaign #EndTheStreakTX in 2015, many are becoming aware of the heartbreaking issue the state has and are beginning to take action to put an end to it.
Traffic Accident Trends in Texas
Unfortunately, traffic collisions are common in Texas. These preventable accidents continue to impact the lives of many who occupy the roadways in 2020, despite the drop experts were expecting in crashes due to stay-at-home orders and closed businesses.
Most of the 3,642 traffic deaths recorded in Texas in 2018 occurred in the streets and highways located in urban areas, leading to a total of 1.29 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles driven. While the deaths recorded in this data include those operating cars, trucks, or motorcycles, it also accounts for any pedestrians or bicyclists killed on roadways.
There are many trends in traffic crashes in Texas, but two of the biggest include pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities and seat belt use by those operating trucks or cars. In the last ten years, the number of pedestrians killed on roadways in Texas has almost doubled, to reach about 612 deaths in 2018. The number of bicyclists killed has also increased over the years.
For those who are involved in traffic accidents or fatalities in Texas, it appears that seatbelt use is teetering around 91 percent. As the fatality rate in Texas is consistently above the national average, lawmakers are trying to improve the number of drivers who wear their seatbelts and encourage motorists to safely share the road.
How Could Coronavirus Impact Car Accidents?
Some experts thought that changes in travel patterns due to COVID-19 would decrease the traffic fatalities as more people worked from home instead of commuting. Instead, roads appear to have almost the same fatality rate as years prior.
“It appears that reckless driving is at the root of this,” explains Attorney Lin McCraw of the McCraw Law Group. “As the roads are cleared of traffic due to coronavirus, drivers who did occupy the roads were able to have clearer paths of traffic and may have increased their speed over the speed limit for roads and highways.”
There is also a nationwide trend of taking to the streets for scenic drives to get away from the confines of a person’s home. Having a couple months off of driving and the potential for increased stress from COVID-19, some drivers may not be at their best state. These factors, and more, appear to contribute to the number of traffic fatalities seen so far in 2020.
Future Outlook for Texas
As thousands of deaths occur on roadways across Texas, many are calling for the personal responsibility of all motorists. While it may seem simple, some drivers may benefit from the reiteration of a few of the driving basics. It’s always a good idea to wear a seatbelt, remove distractions, and stay focused on driving whenever you get behind the wheel.
Texas law requires drivers and all passengers of a vehicle to wear a seat belt. While some drivers don’t follow this law or try to get around it by wearing their seat belt in a way that it is not intended, it’s important to remember that a seatbelt is there to help. In many traffic accidents, a person’s life could have been saved or their injuries drastically reduced if they had been wearing their seat belt properly.
Additionally, it’s best to drive with as few distractions as possible. Loud music, chatty passengers, and cell phones can easily draw a driver’s attention away from the road, leading to unsafe conditions for not only them, but other motorists. It’s also very important to drive sober, without the influence of alcohol, drugs, or substances that could limit your reaction time or alertness behind the wheel.
By giving your full attention to the road and adhering to the applicable driving laws and posted speed limits, you can not only protect yourself from traffic accidents, but you can improve the safety for others who share the road with you, in Texas and in states across the country.