Texas traffic fatalities drop first time in seven years
Published 5:36 pm Wednesday, January 30, 2019
To The Leader
Insurance Council of Texas
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, after seven straight years of increases, the number of traffic fatalities in Texas fell in 2018. Traffic fatalities dropped 4% from 3,720 in 2017 to 3,567 last year. The number of fatal auto-pedestrian accidents also dropped. After reaching a high of 676 fatal auto-pedestrian accidents in 2016, 597 pedestrians were killed on Texas highways last year indicating 12% drop.
Traffic fatalities in Texas had risen 34% since 2010 before finally declining last year. Despite the decline in auto fatalities in 2018, the number of fatalities is still nearly 25% higher than 2010 levels.
“Driving under the influence of alcohol and speeding continues to be the leading causes of fatal traffic crashes,” said Hanna. “Together, both of these factors make for a deadly combination.”
“The one factor that may have contributed to the drop in fatalities last year is the state’s new law banning texting while driving,” said Mark Hanna, a spokesperson for the Insurance Council of Texas. “Because of the tremendous loss of lives, many ICT member companies supported this legislation and the public awareness campaigns appear to have had an impact.”
In 2017, Texas lawmakers passed HB 62, which made it illegal for drivers to text while driving. The law took effect on September 1, 2017. Experts in traffic safety say distracted driving laws save lives and enforcement of these laws can reverse the number of fatal traffic crashes each year.
State Senator Judith Zaffarini of Laredo has introduced legislation this year through SB 43 that expands the prohibited activities of cell phone use in Texas.
“Distracted driving is a nationwide problem with more than 3,400 fatalities in 2016 and insurers have worked hard to draw attention to the problem,” said James Lynch, chief actuary for the Insurance Information Institute. “The presence of a distracted driving law lets people know the behavior is dangerous. Enforcing it makes people respect the law.”
Public awareness campaigns and stronger laws concerning highway traffic safety do work. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says drunk-driving crashes have fallen by a third in the last three decades, but the number of people killed is still high. Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes—that’s one person every 48 minutes.
The NHTSA says ignoring speed limits remains a contributing factor in accidents with speeding accounting for 30% of all fatal crashes. In 2012, 42% of speeding drivers had blood alcohol concentrations of .08 grams per deciliter (BAC) or higher. In every state, it’s illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher. Every state has also adopted the minimum legal drinking age of 21. According to the NHTSA these minimum-drinking-age laws have saved more than 30,000 lives since 1975.
For advice on driving safely, follow these recommendations:
- Keep your attention on driving at all times – no multi-tasking.
- Be aware of what other drivers around you are doing, and expect the unexpected.
- Build time into your trip schedule to stop for food, rest breaks, phone calls or other business.
- Avoid driving when you’re tired. Be aware that some medications cause drowsiness and make operating a vehicle very dangerous.
- Always wear your seat belt and drive sober and drug-free.