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Traffic deaths are way up

Not good, y’all.

With traffic levels returning to normal levels post-COVID, Texas is on track for more than 4,000 deaths on state roads, a total unseen since the mid-1980s when the state had millions fewer residents and far deadlier streets, according to partial estimates from the first five months of 2021.

In the Houston region, sharp increases in pedestrian and bicycling deaths, along with impaired driving in 2020 have continued unabated into 2021.

“We are going the wrong way,” Texas Transportation Commissioner Laura Ryan said. “It is heartbreaking, it is frustrating, and we have got to do something about it.”

[…]

With some fatal wrecks likely not yet logged in the state’s crash database, the first four months of 2021 are the most deadly start to a year at least in the past decade, according to an analysis of Texas Department of Transportation data. Statewide, at least 1,368 people have died on Texas roads, a 24 percent increase over last year and 19 percent jump from 2019 when traffic levels were unaffected by COVID. In the eight-county Houston area, roadway deaths were up 27 percent from last year, with 256 confirmed fatalities, including 183 in Harris County, which saw deaths increased by 36 percent from 2020 and 30 percent compared to 2019.

Comparisons to both 2020 and 2019 show that the spike is not simply COVID, though safety officials think some of it could be based on changing conditions. The pandemic significantly dropped daily traffic counts, which opened up Texas’ wide freeways for abuse.

Now with traffic teetering on a return to normal pre-pandemic levels – in some spots, vehicle volumes are already back to 2019 totals or more – some of those speedy trips are ending tragically.

Many drivers said the risks are easy to see, both from a combination of unruly motorists and streets that favor speed over safety.

“If you build a street like a highway, people will use it like a highway,” said Richard Ward, 55, who lives in Sugar Land.

As the story notes, it’s not just Texas – road fatalities are up nationally, too. There are plenty of long-term issues in the state and around Houston – car-centric road design, higher-than-safe speeds allowed on residential streets, insufficient enforcement of speeding ordinances, etc – but no single cause for the current increase. It seems likely that some people got used to being able to drive more recklessly when the roads were less crowded, and maybe there’s some pandemic stress in there as well. Whatever the case, be careful out there.

(The story notes that there was little action taken by the Legislature to address road safety issues this session. All things considered, we should probably be grateful, because the way things were going someone was sure to propose eliminating drivers licenses and traffic lights as the solution.)

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4 Comments

  1. Jason Hochman says:

    Yeah, I’ve been saying this for a long time. The drivers are bad and getting worse. There needs to be a higher bar for getting a license. Also, if I get elected, I will make a law that all cars are manual transmission. That will eliminate 70% of drivers right there. I would also mandate that all cars have no AC, or even that they are open cab, something like a Can Am Spyder, and that all trucks are taxed at a high rate.

    The traffic carnage, along with the murder epidemic are causing all of the excess deaths, while Operation Stay Safe has been focused on wearing an old T shirt on your face to help stop a virus with a 99.6% survival rate.

    Indeed, the post is correct that someone would probably propose eliminating drivers licenses as a solution. Sandy Cortez said that we could stop crime by not building jails. These people were supposedly elected. You can see why we need voter suppression.

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    I have a very common sense solution to help with both traffic safety, and to get more cars off the road, something the Earth huggers here say they support. When motorists are stopped with no license, or a suspended license, or no insurance….impound the car. Don’t make that optional, just do it.

    I’d go further and arrest those with no license who are illegal aliens and turn them over to ICE, but that’s ultimately futile, as Biden won’t deport them anyway. Still, saddle them with a criminal conviction so maybe Trump can boot them out during his second term.

    We can and should make it difficult for illegals with no licenses to get their cars out of impound. If they’re driving with an open title, meaning they bought a used car and never transferred the registration….oops! Better go pay the taxes on the car first, then come back with a licensed driver to get the car. This will work well for people caught driving with a suspended license, too. Take the car. I’d be OK with giving the cops a choice whether to arrest or merely ticket folks caught driving with a suspended license, but take the car right then and there and let them call Uber or a friend to get home.

    ~Make roads safer

    ~Reduce pollution

    ~Encourage more folks to ride Metro

    Win-Win-Win

  3. David Fagan says:

    Traffic doesn’t kill people, people kill people.

  4. Manny says:

    The solution, prohibit automobiles or any other type of vehicle. Go back to horse and buggy.

    If I were Jason, I would begin by making outrageous claims, such as;

    Yesterday I accurately predicted that the sun would rise, that the world would not end, I am the god of information. If elected I will fix all the evils of the world.

    Sincerely
    The Most Intelligent Person in the world

    If I were Bill;

    Get rid of all people that are not white males. That would solve all the world’s problems.

    Sincerely
    The Most Racist Person in the World