The state motto “Don’t Mess with Texas” is a common refrain found on the bumpers of many Texas vehicles. While this tagline reflects the maverick attitude of many Texans, it may cause undue injuries and deaths when applied to the state’s driving laws.
Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) has released complete analysis of Texas’ traffic fatalities in 2011. Though fatality rates have decreased since 2006, the state’s rate remains higher than the national fatality rate.
2011 Texas Fatality Rates Down over Five Years
Since 2006, the traffic fatality rate in Texas has fallen about 15 percent, from 1.5 fatalities per 100 million miles driven to 1.28 fatalities per 100 million miles driven. In real numbers, this equates to 3,015 deaths in 2011 in over 325 billion miles driven in the state last year.
Factors that may have contributed to the decline in traffic fatalities in Texas include improved car safety – like airbags and back-up cameras – and increased commitment to public education on driving safety. Distracted driving awareness campaigns and the highly successful “Click It or Ticket” campaign have drastically improved seatbelt use in Texas. Now, 94 percent of car occupants wear their seatbelts.
While a decrease in the state’s traffic fatality rate is commendable, losing over 3,000 Texans every year to preventable accidents is not. There was not one day that passed in 2011 when there was not at least one traffic fatality in the state. Texas continues to lose residents to reckless driving, including speeding and driving under the influence.
Speeding and DUI: Common Factors in Texas Traffic Fatalities
Speeding and driving under the influence of alcohol are two reckless driving behaviors that contributed to the 3,015 traffic fatalities last year. Excessive speed took the lives of 179 speeding drivers and 47 of their occupants, 46 occupants in cars hit by a speeding vehicle and six pedestrians.
Motorists driving under the influence of alcohol caused 1,039 deaths in 2011-over a third of the total fatalities that year. Drunk drivers themselves were victims 635 times.
Preventing Traffic Accidents
There are many things drivers can do to avoid causing motor vehicle accidents. First, drivers should always take into account their level of fatigue and weather conditions prior to hitting the road. Driver fatigue is a contributor to motor vehicle accidents, as are poor weather conditions like slick roads or low visibility from a rain shower or fog.
Motorists need to follow all road rules and observe posted speed limits. Though some may spurn these restrictions, the laws are in place to keep all road users safe. Drivers should also keep their eyes and attention on the road, especially when changing lanes or passing through an intersection.
Lastly, drivers need to put their phones and other electronic devices away and focus on driving while they are behind the wheel. While Governor Perry vetoed a texting while driving ban last year, there is strong data that suggest texting while driving and even using a cell phone while driving is dangerous and too often the cause of traffic injuries and deaths.
Unfortunately, there is only so much drivers can do to prevent causing accidents and virtually nothing to prevent others from hitting them. While traffic fatalities are on the decline in the Lone Star State, Texas’ fatality rate is still above the national average. If you suffer injuries or have lost a loved one due to another driver’s negligence, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to learn about the options available to you. You may be entitled to compensation for your losses.