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Houston leads nation in fatal crashes

Brian Beckcom

Brian Beckcom


The Houston Chronicle is publishing a series of articles about why Houston’s roads are so dangerous and how we can fix this problem. The first article examines our most critical issues surrounding road safety in the Houston metro region. Sixteen years of federal highway data reveals that Houston is the most deadly major metro area in the nation for drivers, passengers, and people in their path.

Houston is the most deadly major metro area in the country

The nine-county metro region that makes up Houston leads the nation for fatal crashes involving drugs and alcohol, according to the Chronicle’s analysis. Each of the largest twelve metro areas in the country have their own weak spots when it comes to accident data, however only Houston ranks in the top half in every accident category.

Houston has the second highest number of fatal crashes per capita on federal highways in the United States. Houston also ranks second for fatal wrecks that involve speeding. We also trail only Dallas when it comes to crashes blamed on someone slamming into stopped congestion on the freeway.

When nine out of ten wrecks are caused by poor decisions, you have to examine which poor decisions are being made. In Houston, one of the top poor decisions made by drivers is the failure to control speed. Of our most recent crashes, the Chronicle determined that drivers’ failure to control speed was a leading factor in a majority of those wrecks. Doctors interviewed by the newspaper describe how injuries are much more severe in crashes that occur at higher speeds.

Crashes have increased by 50% in the Houston metro area since 2010. In 2010, there were 111,699 crashes and 12,065 serious injuries. In 2017, there were 167,578 crashes and 15,428 serious injuries. The death toll is higher in high speed crashes as well. The death toll of wrecks in the Houston metro area is the equivalent of “three fully-loaded 737s crashing each year at Houston’s airports, killing all aboard,” according to the Chronicle.

Several factors combine to make speeding in Houston unusually dangerous:

  1. Long commutes in the metro region have four out of five people driving alone for an average of 29.5 minutes each way. Data shows drives are getting longer, up more than a minute since 2013.
  2. Roads are designed for maximum speed to move as many people as possible.
  3. Under-enforcement of traffic laws. Speeding tickets have dropped across the region in the past three years. The number of officers patrolling for speeders and traffic violators has remained the same despite an increase in population and miles driven in the region.
  4. Politicians oppose automated enforcement such as cameras to catch speeders. On top of that, state lawmakers restrict the use of speed cameras as well as video enforcement of red-light runners. Lawmakers also continue to enforce a ban on sobriety checkpoints.
  5. Roads that give cyclists or pedestrians no place to go other than right into traffic. Houston has fewer than 300 miles of on-street bike lanes in a city of over 6,200 miles of roads.

Why Houston’s roads are so dangerous

Traffic in the Houston metro region has grown from 143 million to roughly 183 million miles of vehicle travel since 2006. However, the number of traffic crashes has far outpaced the increase in driving. An increase in 50% in crashes since 2010 is an indication of a much bigger problem in the Houston area. Speed.

Speed is a major factor in crashes where a vehicle runs off the road, where distracted driving caused a fatal crash, and where vehicles collide in intersections. Many drivers don’t fear a penalty for speeding. We Houstonians joke about it to tourists and newcomers. We don’t see it as a safety issue. Instead, we see speed as a personal freedom. Combine this belief with a reduction in ticketing drivers for speeding across the region and you get a deadly combination.

According to the Chronicle’s research, Houston police officers ticketed 41% fewer drivers in 2017 than they did in 2012, even though the number of miles traveled in Houston grew 23%. Harris County sheriff’s deputies issued 28% fewer speeding tickets in 2017 than they did in 2015, even though the county gained 100,000 people during that period.

Experts say that speeding tickets are an important tool for making our roads safer and preventing car wrecks. In a 2015 study, experts found that for every 1% increase in tickets issued, crashes fell by a corresponding 0.28%. Injuries fell by 0.17%. One of the experts behind the study, Dara Lee Luca, stated, “As unpopular as tickets are, they’re effective.” Houston’s police department is focusing on quality, not quantity when it comes to traffic enforcement. A 2017 initiative to target the underlying problems that cause wrecks has reduced car wrecks by 15% this year to date.

How to settle a car accident claim caused by a speeding driver

While officials are working on reducing the number of serious or fatal crashes involving speeding, survivors of these wrecks may need help getting back to normal. Proving the other car, 18-wheeler, commercial vehicle, motorcycle, or vehicle was speeding can be difficult in some situations. That’s where we come in.

Our firm has helped hundreds of Houstonians injured in serious and complex wrecks prove their case. From hiring accident reconstruction experts to prove the other vehicle was speeding to hiring experts in biomechanics that explain how your injuries happened, we know how to prove your case. We also know that insurance companies have trained their adjusters to make it seem as if they are helping you when really they are gathering evidence to poke holes in your claim.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident, do not hesitate to take legal action. An experienced attorney can evaluate your claims and help you move with your best foot forward. For a free and confidential consultation, complete this contact form or call us today at 888-430-0906.