Every year, the Texas Department of Transportation keeps track of the number of traffic fatalities on Texas roads. This year, despite the pandemic and fewer people traveling, traffic deaths are not declining.
Robert C. Wunderlich is director of the Center for Transportation Safety at Texas A&M University. He told Texas Standard that it’s not only the number of drivers on the road that leads to more traffic deaths; speed also plays a major role.
“The thing about speed is it’s an exponential function, so that a 10% increase in speed can be over a 50% increase in severity, particularly in terms of fatal crashes,” he said.
So far this year, TxDOT has reported over 2,000 traffic fatalities. There were 3,610 total traffic crash deaths for all of 2019.
Wunderlich said much of the focus in Texas has been on improving highway congestion. And more traffic does also play a role on the number of fatalities. But he said just focusing on reducing congestion won’t solve the fatality issue, especially if Texas wants to reach its “Vision Zero” goal of no traffic deaths by 2050.
“If we don’t solve, at the same time, the problem with people running into one another or running off the road, then we’re going to have a higher rate per person traveling of severe crashes,” he said.
To help, drivers can avoid drinking and driving or driving while sleepy. They should also wear their seatbelts: he said about 40%-50% of deaths are from people who “are not belted.”