Texas is a highway state, with thousands of miles of roads connecting our many great cities. With the second-largest population in the United States, we have the drivers to fill those roads, too. But with so much open road and so many people, our highways can be a dangerous place—and the statistics bear that out. Drunk-driving and distracted-driving accidents in particular are increasing, causing a number of deaths unprecedented in recent state history.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) keeps detailed records about accidents in all fifty states. Research shows that accidents in Texas have been increasing, and in 2015, Texas had the highest number of fatalities in any state. In fact, traffic fatalities in Texas have risen over 20 percent in the past six years alone.
Factors Affecting Traffic Accidents and Fatalities in Texas
In Texas, many factors have come together to create an environment that can lead to an increase in traffic accidents. Some of these factors are:
- Lower gas prices. The American Automobile Association’s gas price tool shows that Texans are paying less for gasoline than the national average—by 20 cents per gallon or more. Cheaper gas means that more people are likely to be on the road.
- Fast population growth. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that between 2015 and 2016 (from July to July), Texas saw the biggest increase in population of any state in the country. Over 430,000 people came to live in the Lone Star State in that period. Surprisingly, Texas ranked only tenth in the nation in terms of percentage growth, at 1.58 percent. Utah took the number one spot.
- Driving under the influence. The Texas Department of Transportation reports that 960 people were killed in traffic accidents involving a drunk driver in 2015. Over one-quarter of all fatalities that year (27 percent) were due to DUI crashes.
- Distracted driving. Activities that pull the driver’s attention away from the road—such as texting, eating, drinking, talking to a passenger or on a phone, adjusting the radio, and so on—are extremely dangerous while driving. Texas saw 476 people killed in distracted driving incidents in 2015. Texas has no state law prohibiting texting while driving, though some cities have passed local ordinances banning the practice.
With all of these elements coming together at one time and place here in our great state, it’s up to individual drivers to take it upon themselves to keep the roads safe for everyone.
How to Stay Focused on the Road
To understand how distracted driving presents a real danger on the road, it’s important to think about how your actions can affect attention. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are three major components of distracted driving:
- Visual distractions. When your eyes leave the road, even for a moment, you become visually distracted. This can happen when you look at your phone, check your GPS, perform personal grooming, apply makeup, and so on.
- Manual distractions. When you take one or both of your hands off of the steering wheel, you become manually distracted. This can include activities such as eating or drinking, changing the radio station, smoking, or even just adjusting a seatbelt.
- Cognitive distractions. These types of distractions result in your attention wandering from the road, even if your eyes are forward and your hands are on the wheel. Cognitive distractions include talking, being angry or having “road rage,” daydreaming, alcohol, or anything that takes your mind away from the task at hand.
The CDC has found that activities such as texting become especially dangerous, because it combines all three to totally take a driver’s attention away from the road. By avoiding distractions such as texting and driving, you can reduce your chances of becoming a traffic accident statistic in next year’s accident reports.
What to Do If You Are Involved in an Accident
While you can control your own actions behind the wheel, you can’t control the actions of other drivers. Sometimes, despite your best efforts to be safe, traffic accidents can happen, and it’s not your fault. When you’ve been hurt by another driver’s careless or reckless behavior on the road, a personal injury attorney can help you seek compensation for your damaged property and medical bills.
Wayne Wright has been standing up for victims who have been injured in auto accidents for 40 years. If you’ve been hurt and would like to talk to a legal professional about your situation, reach out to Wayne Wright LLP today.