In recent months, Houston, Austin, and the DFW areas have all seen a decline in traffic.
With many of us self-isolating, ordering in, and skipping our commutes as we work from home, driving during a pandemic is an avoidable activity. Some car insurance companies are even offering refunds or discounted premiums during this time.
So why have Texas road fatality statistics stayed practically the same?
In this blog, we’ll take a look at the numbers and the possible reasons behind them.
The death toll for Texas car accidents is one we are all too familiar within our industry. In fact, the Texas Department of Transportation’s #EndTheStreak campaign exists to combat a grim fact: there has not been a death-free day on Texas roads since November 2000.
On average, ten people die in car crashes every day in Texas. (Results are slightly skewed as well: some victims survive the crash but die in the hospital days later from their injuries.)
Ever since coronavirus-related stay-at-home orders took effect, Texas traffic has decreased by approximately 50%. But between January 1st and April 15th, 2020, the number of car crashes only dropped between 11% – 15% compared to the same time period in 2019 in the Austin, Dallas Fort Worth, and Houston metros, according to recent data analysis conducted by Community Impact Newspaper.
For example, here in Houston, Harris County alone had 32,096 car crashes between January 1st and April 15th of this year. During the same time period last year, there were 36,816 car crashes. That’s only a 13% percent drop.
Why doesn’t the large drop in traffic correspond to an equally significant drop in accidents?
It all boils down to our behavior. Sure, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) encourages all drivers to wear seatbelts and obey speed limits, but is this enough?
Each year, the causes of tens of thousands of accidents are classified simply as “driver inattention.” Many preventable errors like swerving, weaving, drifting out of lanes, and tailgating are all found to be factors contributing to traffic deaths in Texas.
Plus, we’ve got a lot on our minds these days. We are more prone to distraction. We are more tempted to check that new text message that just dinged on our phone, thinking it could be a family member in crisis.
Some drivers might not have been behind the wheel at all during these last several weeks – especially if a different family member had been appointed to go on grocery runs. Joking aside, we might actually be forgetting how to drive! Getting reacclimated can be difficult, especially at a time like this when many of our minds and bodies are already in a panicked state.
We might even be feeling a little emboldened. The lack of other cars on the road might have some of us thinking “anything goes,” but now is not the time to go on a midnight joyride or do donuts in that Costco parking lot… no matter how much you need to blow off some steam.
Defensive driving and road safety tips apply now more than ever. Below are some rules and recommendations everyone should brush up on before they buckle up:
Always use your blinkers
when passing and turning, even if you think no one is behind you. If you’re about to pass an emergency vehicle stopped on the side of the road, Texas state law requires you to move over one lane or reduce your speed to 20MPH below the posted speed limit.
Come to a complete stop and look both ways
before entering intersections. Be on the lookout for bicycles and motorcycles.
Leave plenty of space
Social distancing recommends keeping six feet apart from others on foot, but remember to give all vehicles – especially large trucks – some breathing room, too! Every vehicle has blind spots, and lingering in them could be deadly.
Road construction has not stopped
At any given time, there are as many as 3,000 active work zones in Texas. Exercise an extra dose of caution and slow down when passing road work crews and construction zones. Be aware of blocked-off roads or redirected lanes and detours.
Don’t text and drive
This one’s common sense. Texting and driving is illegal in Texas. A first offense is punishable by a fine of up to $99, and any subsequent offense carries a fine of up to $200.
Don’t drink and drive
You might not think this one applies, what with bars in Texas remaining closed until further notice and many of us snuggling up with our wine bottles at home. But in case of an emergency that requires you to go elsewhere, always have a designated driver.
Don’t drive if you’re tired
Everyone’s sleep schedules are unbalanced these days, with one day blurring into the next in quarantine. Don’t get behind the wheel if you’re feeling sleepy. You could become another statistic. In 2018, nearly 10,000 Texas car accidents were attributed to drivers being either fatigued or asleep.
Have an errand? Don’t make it a family affair
Fewer passengers means fewer distractions… and fewer risks for fatalities. If your family needs to stock up on household essentials or pick up a takeout order, send one driver – not the whole brood – to handle these errands. This also minimizes your risk of exposure to the coronavirus.
Don’t get stranded
The sad truth is, current precautions and social distancing measures mean people are now less likely to stop and help you if you’re stranded on the side of the road. If you have to go out, expect the unexpected. Make sure you are equipped with a full tank of gas, spare tire, jumper cables, and the knowledge to use them. You can also go all-out and put together a complete roadside emergency kit.
“Should I travel during the coronavirus disease outbreak? What travel precautions should I take during the coronavirus disease outbreak?”
With over 25,000 confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in Texas and over 660 deaths, we’re not out of the woods yet.
The Centers for Disease Control recommend those crossing state lines should remain quarantined for 14 days after arriving at their destination. Air travel and cruises put you at far higher risk than driving. Put simply, nonessential travel should be avoided.
On Monday, April 27th Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced his plans to allow businesses to reopen at limited capacity. This news means more drivers will be back on the road… but the streak of daily Texas car accident deaths is one norm we don’t want to return to.
In short: it is every Texas driver’s responsibility to make better decisions. Look out for your fellow Texan.
TxDOT says it best: “Be safe. Drive smart.“
Hurt in a Texas car accident? Help is here.
If you were injured in a car accident, our Houston car accident lawyers are here for you.
Getting into a car accident now is even more stressful than usual. Bills are piling up, you may not have health insurance or steady income, and you may not know how to pay for medical care.
We understand, and we’re here to help.
Call us now at 713.804.7675 or submit your questions here for a free consultation. Get informed about your options. You might not know about all the compensation you’re entitled to, but it’s our job to!