Disappointing news, Texans: We’re earning a reputation for being bad drivers.
The website Car Insurance Comparison.com looked at fatality statistics per 100 million vehicles traveled, for drunk driving, speeding, careless driving, and failure-to-obey, to rank all states according to driving behavior. In 2015, drivers in Texas were named the fourth worst in the United States. In all statistical categories, Texas was among the top 20 offenders, with the sixth worst record for drunk driving fatalities.
Bankrate.com rated Texas as the third most dangerous place for drivers, in its analysis of data including driving behavior and other factors such as commute times, car theft rate, and insurance premium. Bankrate.com found Texas drivers pay an average insurance premium 15 percent higher than the U.S. average – not surprising, considering Texans have a higher-than-average crash fatality rate and auto theft rate.
While some roadway threats may be beyond an individual driver’s control, there are numerous ways Texans could begin to improve the state’s driving record.
The same analysis that ranked Texas as the sixth worst for DUI fatalities ranked the state 11th in the number of pedestrian and bicycle fatalities caused by careless driving.
Texas state law doesn’t prohibit the use of handheld phones and mobile devices – at least not yet – but some jurisdictions do. And according to the National Safety Council, even using a hands-free device is dangerous. Perhaps it’s time for Texans to get serious about putting their cellphones away when driving, to minimize distractions.
Drinking and Driving
In August 2015, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo pleaded with parents to talk to their children about the dangers of drinking and driving. At the time, 69 people had died in traffic crashes since January 1. And by year-end, Austin had recorded 102 traffic fatalities, compared to 62 the year before.
While alcohol certainly isn’t a factor in all crashes, intoxicated drivers are more likely to engage in the kind of extremely risky behavior that results in fatalities — driving far above the speed limit, for example, or running red lights. Drunk drivers also are to blame for a number of deadly wrong-way crashes on Texas highways.
Drivers in Dallas and Austin know that rush hour can cause tempers to flare. And at least a few acts of road rage violence in Texas have made national headlines.
In January 2016, a woman driving in Arlington was shot and killed by a passenger in another car. Police described the shooting as an act of road rage. In 2015, a man fired four shots through the rear window of another car because the driver had honked at him. While angry, aggressive drivers don’t always go to such extremes, they create danger for drivers around them when they lose their temper and begin tailgating other cars or weaving in and out of traffic.
Speed limits aren’t arbitrary suggestions. They’re intended to keep motorists safe, yet many people ignore posted speed limits on a regular basis. When excessive speed is combined with other factors, such as following too closely or being distracted, odds of a crash increase.
Texans could help create safer driving conditions by allowing plenty of time to reach their destination, obeying traffic laws, and avoiding risky behaviors.