November 7, 2000. This was the last day there was not a fatality on a Texas roadway, county road, farm to market road, or highway. For over 13 years, there’s been at least one traffic fatality per day. Over 45,000 people have died on our roadways during this time period; the longest running stretch for Texas dating back to 1940, the year traffic fatalities started being recorded. California, which has a higher population than Texas, had its last traffic fatality-free day in September 2009.
The three leading causes of traffic fatalities in Texas are speed, failure to wear a seat belt, and impaired driving. Alcohol is attributed to almost one-third of all Texas traffic fatalities. Texas leads the nation in alcohol related traffic fatalities. These figures should impact all of us who call Texas home, especially since the three leading factors for traffic fatalities are issues for which we can personally take responsibility.
Impaired Driving: One of the ways California cut down on its traffic fatalities was to address the issue of impaired driving head on. To do so, they conduct over 2,000 sobriety checkpoints a year to help reduce drunk driving. These checkpoints run throughout the year; not just on holidays such as New Year’s Eve, Memorial Day, and the Fourth of July. Texas did have a similar program in place, but abandoned it in 1994 when it was found to violate the state Constitution due to no statewide guidelines. This should be an easy issue to remedy and I’d like to see the 2014 Texas Legislature address this.
In addition to legislative action, it only makes sense to not drink and drive. Simplistic? Yes, but it takes little effort to drink less, put some amount of time between the last drink and when you get behind the wheel, or call for a taxi or friend to drive you home. There’s great wisdom in having a soda or water when everyone else has their last call. If you’re hosting a party, make sure no one leaves who’s had too much to drink as you could be held liable for serving someone if they injure or kill someone.
Seatbelts: It’s hard to believe that anyone would drive without a seatbelt, but it does happen. Before shifting the car into gear, make sure you and everyone else in your car is buckled. Don’t put more people in your vehicle than there are seatbelts, and realize that seat belts protect you in ways that airbags don’t. Airbags may protect you in a head on collision, and they may protect you when hit from the side, but they don’t keep you from being thrown across the car when someone T’s you or if the car rolls over. Seatbelts do! Buckle up Texas!
Speeding: Texas recently raised the speed limit on highways and interstates to 75 last year in areas that are sparsely populated. It does cut down on the time to get from Dallas to Houston or elsewhere. One of the arguments against raising the speed limit is that many people will drive 5 to 10 miles an hour faster, putting their speeds at 80 to 85 miles an hour. The faster the speed, the less time a driver has to react to something such as a stopped or slow driving vehicle, an animal or some hazard on the road. Slowing down and driving the speed limit means you’ll be able to respond better and improve your chances of avoiding an accident. It may add a few minutes to the drive, but you’ll still be with us!
What do you think should be done to cut down on Texas traffic fatalities? Share your suggestions, comments, or questions with us in the comments section of our blog or on our Facebook and Google + page. I’d love to hear from you!