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Are Texas Roads Getting Safer?

Recent research indicates that through the combined efforts of lawmakers, law enforcement, and individual road users, Texas roads are getting safer. According to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the fatality rate on Texas roadways in 2008 was 1.41 deaths per hundred million vehicle miles traveled, a 1.40% decrease from 2007.

But there is still much work to be done: 3,468 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2008, seven more than in 2007. Though the increase is small, it reverses a downward trend that had been occurring since 2003.

Funding for roadway improvements helps make Texas highways safer for all users. In 2009, the Texas Transportation Commission approved $600 million in funding for the 2009 Safety Bond Program that provided for 355 improvement projects over 900 miles of highway, including:
  • Widening narrow two-lane roads
  • Adding left turn lanes and continuous left turn lanes to lower the incidence of rear-end collisions
  • Installing concrete and cable barriers in divided highway medians to reduce the risk of head-on collisions
  • Converted undivided roads into divided highways
  • Building overpasses and interchanges to improve the flow of traffic and reduce crashes
Recent legislation that helps keep Texans safer on the road includes:
  • Requiring all occupants to fasten their safety belts regardless of their age or where they are sitting in the vehicle
  • Prohibiting motorcyclists from carrying passengers under the age of five unless the child is seated in a sidecar -Requiring children under the age of eight to be in an approved child passenger safety seat unless the child is at least four feet, nine inches tall
  • Prohibiting drivers from using wireless communication devices in school zones unless the vehicle is stopped or a hands-free device is used if a sign is posted at the beginning of the school zone
  • Increasing the penalty for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) with a child passenger by adding an automatic driver's license suspension for first-time offenders and an increased suspension period for repeat offenders
  • Allowing police to order blood draws without search warrants from individuals they suspect of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) in certain cases
  • Increasing the penalties for driving with a suspended license or without insurance
  • Requiring a six-hour driver education course for all first-time drivers' license applicants who are between 18 and 25 years of age.
Texas is making particular improvement in the area of teen driving safety. According to the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI), the rate of fatal teen crashes is declining more quickly and steadily in Texas than in any other state. This progress is due in part to a peer-to-peer safety program for young drivers called Teens in the Driver Seat.

A study conducted by TTI looked at 36 states with a minimum of five years of crash records obtainable after implementation of a Graduated Driver License (GDL) law; the Teens in the Driver Seat program was part of the study because it is meant to supplement the state's GDL law. The study indicated that Texas has accomplished the following:
  • Reduced the number of fatal crashes per 10,000 teen drivers by 32.5%, more than any other state studied; Texas was the only state that had a steady reduction in the rate of fatal teen crashes for five years in a row.
  • Lowered the number of teen drivers in fatal collision by almost 33%; the average number for several other large states increased.
  • Lowered fatal motor vehicle crash rates for teen drivers by more than five times that of other age groups in Texas.
How can Texas roads become even safer? Legislation, funding, and advocacy groups do make a difference, but on an individual level, drivers must take responsibility for their behind-the-wheel behavior. According to The National Safety Commission (TNSC), every driver should practice defensive driving techniques, such as:
  • Avoiding distractions such as reading while driving, eating, using a cell phone for talking or texting, and dealing with children.
  • Making sure you are physically fit to drive by avoiding drowsy driving. Studies show that 37% of drivers report having nodded off or fallen asleep while driving.
  • Making sure you are emotionally fit to drive by avoiding aggressive driving. Be courteous to other drivers even if they aren't courteous in return.
  • Including other road users, such as motorcyclists and pedestrians, in your visual search pattern.
  • Wearing safety belts. According to the TxDOT, of all individuals killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2008 where restraint usage was applicable and usage was known, 56% were not restrained when the deadly collision occurred.
  • Taking a defensive driving course to refresh your driving skills, especially if you receive a traffic ticket.
  • Setting a good driving example for your children. Long before you start giving driving lessons, your kids absorb your driving practices as the "correct" way to drive.
  • Enforcing GDL laws as house rules for teen drivers.
A parent-teen contract can help by making penalties for breaking the rules clear.

The need for motorists to police their own driving behavior is supported by the sad fact that, according to TxDOT, there were zero deathless days on Texas roadways in 2008.

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Blogger Bryan Mills said...

Great post with Great stuff.That sounds pretty cool. Keep posting interesting Texas Driver Education here. Looking forward to it. Thanks and keep it up! All the Best

December 1, 2009 at 3:31 AM  

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