OP-ED: November 7, 2000 was the last deathless day on Texas roadways
Published 4:04 pm Tuesday, October 20, 2020
AUSTIN — The sound of baseball and the smell of barbecue fills a North Austin neighborhood. It’s the start of a new summer and 14-year-old Alexei Bauereis is walking his friend home through a crosswalk.
Filled with the excitement only a new summer can bring, Alexei likely didn’t see the car speeding toward the crosswalk. The 19-year-old driver didn’t see Alexei either, because he was changing the music on his phone.
Alexei died instantly, along with his dream of becoming a world class ballet dancer.
“It’s a terrible tragedy not just for the person involved and not even just their family, but a much broader community,” said his father, Eric Bauereis.
This November 7, Texas marks 20 years of daily deaths on our roadways with more than 70,000 innocent lives like Alexei’s lost to preventable fatal crashes. Texas Transportation Commissioner Laura Ryan, a champion for road safety and TxDOT’s #EndTheStreakTX campaign, believes ending this streak is attainable, but will require every Texan’s commitment.
“Last year, 20 Texas counties actually had zero deaths on their roadways – that tells me we can end the streak of daily deaths in Texas,” Ryan said. “This is why in 2019 the Texas Transportation Commission adopted a new goal of having zero deaths on our roadways by 2050, and to cut the number of fatalities in half by 2035. We will do our part; and we need drivers to do theirs.”
An average of 10 people die every day in crashes in the state.
“The effort to end the streak of daily deaths in Texas is a shared responsibility and we are committed to including safety enhancements in every project we build or maintain,” said TxDOT Executive Director James Bass. “It’s going to take education, engineering and enforcement to get this done, and that’s why this call to action to every Texan is so imperative.”
What we’re asking is simple: when you get behind the wheel buckle up; pay attention and avoid all distractions like phones; never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs; watch your speed, and always drive to the conditions around you.
Because #EndTheStreakTX is a social media, grassroots and word-of-mouth effort, Texans are being asked to join the #TexasTag10 challenge on social media and tag ten family members or friends and encourage them to say what they will do differently to avoid a fatal crash on our roads.
Earlier this year, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, traffic levels on Texas highways dropped nearly 44 percent in some parts of the state. This decrease in traffic encouraged TxDOT to think the horrific streak might finally come to an end. Instead, the death rate was unchanged, even with fewer drivers on Texas roads.
“We can and we must do better,” said Ryan.