Every day since Nov. 7, 2000, at least one person has died on Texas roads. That’s more than 65,000 killed in Texas roadway crashes over the past 20 years.
The Lone Star State’s stamina for tolerating daily traffic fatalities makes it unsurprising that proposals to improve road safety have had limited success.
The Texas Tribune reported more than half of the states in the US have established goals of reaching zero traffic deaths. The Texas Department of Transportation made a presentation to the state Traffic Commission in March that called for having zero traffic fatalities in Texas by the year 2050.
Texas has yet to adopt such a goal. Which, in other states, this goal has included steps to improve road design, push for more enforcement of existing laws and mounting education programs. However, Texas legislators currently have a plan in motion that considers lowering the speed limit on roads that otherwise don’t have marked speed limits from 30 mph to 25 mph.
State Representative, Celia Israel, said her 25 mph speed limit proposal could save lives and money. Currently, if residents of a neighborhood want to lower a street’s speed limit below 30 mph, the city must do a traffic study. Under Israel’s proposal, a traffic study will no longer be a requirement in order to change the speed limit on unmarked roads to 25 mph.
Another approach officials are taking to make Texas roadways safer is banning all use of handheld electronic devices while driving.
Texas transportation officials said more than 100,000 crashes, including 444 deaths, involved distracted driving in 2017. Texas currently outlaws only texting while driving.
That means drivers can still talk on the phone, fiddle with a GPS or browse the internet while operating a vehicle. The proposal would make all uses of an electronic device while driving illegal, with the exception of the driver using a hands-free device. A driver would be required to stop outside a travel lane to lawfully use a phone by hand.
Another proposal to make Texas roads safer would establish what some people might consider to be an obvious rule, requiring that pedestrians have the right of way. Current law requires only that a driver yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk when there’s a walk sign or no traffic light.
The proposal in the Texas House of Representatives would require drivers to “stop and yield” for pedestrians legally present in a crosswalk.
“Because you’re in a car doesn’t give you the right to close in on a pedestrian or hurry up a pedestrian with your car bumper,” Israel said. “You have to stop and you have to yield.”
In addition to the proposals stated above, Texas legislation is discussing replacing the word “accident” in the state’s transportation code with “crash.” The idea behind the proposed word change is that “accident” makes what happened seem somehow inevitable without holding anyone accountable for a crash.
To shed the streak of a death a day on Texas roads, the Department of Transportation is hoping to raise awareness by urging Texans to share stories of loved ones killed in vehicle crashes on social media with the hashtag, #EndTheStreakTX.
Proposals to make Texas roads safer include these reminders from transportation officials:
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