Between 2005 and 2014, the death toll on Texas highways has been constant. The numbers dance around an average of 3,363 a year and never fall below 3,000. The most alarming increase occurred between 2011 and 2012 when the number of traffic deaths increased by 11% and by a total of 350 additional fatalities. Many accidents are caused by preventable driver errors. Our analysis indicates that drivers in Texas can help reduce the risk of crashes by avoiding certain unsafe behaviors that are leading contributors to crashes year after year. In nearly every year we analyzed, driving under the influence stood out as the leading cause of crashes. The number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities increased by more than 20 percent during the time period.
Speed is another leading cause of fatal crashes, our analysis shows. Driving faster than the posted speed limit is not the only issue. Many crashes are caused by failure to control speed, such as driving too fast for traffic conditions and or failing to maintain a speed to keep a safe distance between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead. In several years, speed-related accidents surpassed drunk driving as the number one cause of fatal accidents in Texas. Another leading cause of fatal crashes is failure to drive in a single lane. A driver may drift out of his or her lane because the driver is drowsy, distracted or inattentive. A driver also may cause an accident by trying to change lanes and failing to see another motorist beside them in a blind spot.
Between 2005 and 2014, the greatest concentration of traffic crashes in Texas occurred in the area that includes Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Austin. The Texas triangle has a higher density of people, cars and trucks than the state overall. Nearly three quarters of the state’s population lives in the Texas Triangle. There are significantly more cars, trucks and motorcycles on the roads today than in 2005 and Texans are driving more miles each year. Even so, the overall number of traffic fatalities has remained relatively flat comparing the years 2005 and 2014. However, our analysis did identify some troubling trends.
Accidents involving motorcyclists represent a growing portion of traffic fatalities in Texas. The popularity of motorcycles in the Lone Star State brought a 38 percent increase in motorcycle registrations from 2005 to 2014 and a corresponding 32 percent increase in motorcyclist deaths. More than 450 motorcycle riders died in the most recent year analyzed. It is critically important for motorcyclists to wear bright clothing and make themselves as visible as possible to other motorists.
Drunk driving accident also represent a growing proportion of traffic fatalities in Texas. The number of alcohol related traffic deaths in Texas increased by 23 percent from 2005 to 2014. More than one out of four fatal traffic accidents involved a drunk driver by 2014. Drunk driving accidents are preventable. Avoid driving after drinking alcohol and help your loved ones get home safely if they have consumed alcohol. Never let a friend drive drunk. Also, if possible, try not to drive late at night when many drunk drivers are on the road. If you do have to drive late at night keep a greater distance than normal between yourself and other vehicles.
Distraction is now understood to be a serious traffic safety issue with many motorists talking or texting on cell phones while driving. Nearly 500 people died in traffic accidents in 2014 involving distracted driving.