As one of the biggest states, with more than 685,580 lane miles of highways, Texas holds the unfortunate distinction of being the third deadliest when it comes to highway deaths, after only California and Florida. According to an article in Texas Monthly, 10 percent of the fatal car accidents that occurred in the U.S. in 2015 happened in Texas, with 62 percent of those on our highways and interstates. And, Texas’ four largest cities, which are among the top 10 most populated cities in the United States, are where most of these dangerous stretches of highway are located. The 504-mile span of IH-35 that passes through three of these cities appeared on a list of the deadliest highways in the country in 2010 with 579 fatal accidents.
The Auto Insurance Center analyzed nationwide accident data over a 20-year time span. In the resulting study, two out of the top nine counties for fatalities are located in Texas. In the number four spot is Leon County, which is on the way from Dallas to Houston and is bisected by Interstate 45. The eighth most dangerous county in the United States is Reeves County in West Texas, which contains a section of Interstate 20 and part of I-10.
Crash data from the Texas Department of Transportation shows that in 2016, one person was killed every 2 hours and 20 minutes on Texas roadways. Sadly, one person was injured every 1 minute 59 seconds and one reportable crash occurred every 57 seconds. Perhaps even more alarming is that this brought the fatality rate to 1.44 deaths per hundred million vehicle traveled miles, an increase of 3.59 percent from the previous year.
All of these statistics underscore the risk we take when we get behind the wheel. Tragically, 3,773 people died in car crashes in Texas in 2016 alone, while another 17,582 people sustained serious injuries.
Where do these fatalities occur and why? Let’s take a look at the deadliest highways in Texas and the role we can all play in making our roads safer.
Roadway Fatalities In The Valley
Based on per-mile data on crashes which result in fatalities, the 1.49 miles of Interstate 69C in Edinburg, north of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley campus, is the deadliest. Twelve fatalities occurred on this South Texas roadway between 2013 and 2015 from seven crashes, which means that 8 people lost their lives per mile.
Interstate 69C is a freeway which runs south to north and begins in Pharr in Hidalgo County, which has a population of about 77,000. Edinburg is the county seat with just over 87,000 residents. The Rio Grande Valley is one of the fastest-growing areas in the United States, with tourism and agribusiness making up its biggest economic sectors.
Car Crashes In Cowtown
The dangerous roads in Texas aren’t limited to the more rural areas. With 14 fatalities on a 1.99 mile stretch of Interstate 30 in Fort Worth, mile point 124 had eight crashes between 2013 and 2015, which means there were 7.05 fatalities per mile. This makes this stretch of road the second deadliest in the state. This highway starts in a rural area west of Fort Worth and heads northeast until it ends in Little Rock, Arkansas.
An accident in April of 2017 on Interstate 30 in Rockwall claimed the life of one Texan when a semi-truck failed to brake, causing a multi-car accident which involved another semi and four cars. Two years earlier and few miles down I-30, five people lost their lives and a dozen more sustained injuries as a result of a collision with an 18-wheeler.
Fort Worth had four segments of highways with 90 fatalities. When combined with deaths in the larger the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, there were 15 deadly stretches of highway, which accounted for 377 fatalities.
According to an article in The Dallas Morning News, the Dallas/Fort Worth metro has 7.1 million people, which represents an increase of 144,704 residents from July 1, 2014, to July 1, 2015.
Perilous Stretches Of West Texas Roadways
Located in Penwell, approximately 16 miles outside of Odessa, a 2.93 mile stretch of Interstate 20 saw 18 facilities in seven crashes around mile point 151, which averages out to 6.15 fatalities per mile. I-20 is a major Texas thoroughfare which crosses most of the central part of the state, originating in Kent, Texas and ending in Florence, South Carolina. This portion of the interstate is considered the third deadliest in the entire state.
Surprisingly, the Odessa area in West Texas accounted for 82 fatalities in 74 crashes along five deadly stretches of highway totaling 29.6 highway miles. A large contributing factor is the oil boom in the early 2010s that brought many jobs to the area. The 2014-2015 census data shows that the Midland metropolitan had Texas’ highest population growth at 3.3 percent. Some of the roads in the area are narrow and not well-maintained, while unwieldy and large oil tankers, oil and gas equipment and semi-trucks traverse the area’s roadways.
In January 2015, a prison bus crashed while traveling westbound on I-20, resulting in 10 fatalities when it ran off an overpass and collided with a train. Four years earlier, Midland County had a period with one fatal car crash a week and 15 deaths from January until April alone.
Sadly, many of these fatalities may have been preventable. A contributing factor in many of these crashes was that the victims weren’t wearing seatbelts.
Central Texas Highways With High Fatality Rates
Central Texas isn’t immune to these auto fatalities. Interstate 35 at mile point 101 in San Antonio holds the fourth spot in the list of most deadly highways in Texas. With 13 fatalities in nine crashes along a 2.19-mile stretch of highway, this roadway averages 5.94 fatalities per mile.
As a whole, San Antonio has 10 deadly stretches of highway representing a total of 50.6 miles spread all across the city. A good portion of the 176 fatalities resulting from 153 fatal crashes happened along different portions of Interstate 410.
San Antonio is home to almost 1.5 million people. The metropolitan area increased by 51,000 residents between 2014 and 2015.
Accidents On Houston’s Highways Turn Tragic
A 5.42 mile stretch of Texas Highway 288 ranks as the fifth deadliest roadway in the state. Located in Houston along mile point 59, there were 28 crashes resulting in 32 fatalities between 2013 and 2015, which means there were 5.91 fatalities per mile.
The greater Houston area has 17 of the 78 deadly stretches. Anyone who has spent time in Houston won’t be surprised to learn that Houston commuters sat in traffic for 61 hours in 2014 and that the area experienced the single largest population growth of any city in the country with an increase in 159,083 people to bring the city’s total population to 6.6 million. The city’s deadly stretches account for 100.5 miles of the city’s highways, which had 345 fatalities with 316 crashes.
Comparing Auto Deaths By City
We’ve already covered parts of the DFW area, Houston and San Antonio which have perilous stretches of roadways. In addition, Austin holds seven deadly stretches, making up 41.4 miles of its highways. Between 2013 and 2015, the area had 113 crashes, which resulted in 127 fatalities. Fatal crashes in the capital city were fewer than in the state’s other three major metropolitan areas.
Our most populated regions aren’t the only ones with significant deadly stretches of highway. Abbott, Baytown, Bellaire, Bellmead, Colmesneil, Cotulla, Cypress, Duncanville, Edinburg, El Paso, Grand Prairie, Lancaster, Lewisville, Lubbock, Lufkin, Nacogdoches, Odessa, Penwell, Pinehurst, Premont, Sherman, Spring and Wetmore all made the list of cities with the most vehicle fatalities to round out the 78 deadliest stretches.
Wondering if you are more likely to get in a fatal accident in an urban or rural area in Texas? Studies show that 51.47 percent of fatalities in Texas in 2016 occurred in rural areas.
Crash Statistics from Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT)
A few numbers stood out in the 2016 crash data from TxDOT:
- Texas had zero deathless days in 2016.
- In 2016, annual vehicle miles traveled was 261.994 billion, which was up from 258.122 billion in 2015, an increase of 1.5 percent. The more we are on the roads, the more likely we are to get into any type of crash, including a serious one.
- 638 people died in head-on crashes.
- October was the deadliest month, with 382 fatalities.
- In motor vehicle crashes, 265,076 people were injured.
- 496 motorcycle drivers and passengers died in 2016. Of those victims, 53 percent were not wearing helmets.
- There was a 21.5 percent increase in pedestrian fatalities which represented a total of 678 deaths.
- Twenty-six percent of the total number of people killed in motor vehicles died as a result of a driver being under the influence of alcohol.
- More DUI crashes were reported between 2 am and 2:59 am than any other hour, with Saturday being the highest day of the week.
- In crashes where distracted driving was involved, 455 people were killed. This is a 5 percent decrease from 2015.
Vehicles Involved In Crashes
Passenger cars still make up the largest type of car involved in fatal crashes. Statewide, 1,915 passenger cars were involved in crashes in 2016. The next largest vehicle type is trucks, with 1,452 crashes. SUVs were third highest with 907, followed by motorcycles with 497 and truck-tractor/semi-trailers with 403 deaths.
Other vehicle types included fire trucks, police vehicles, police motorcycles, vans, ambulances, buses, school buses, farm equipment and other, which all were below 200 statewide crashes.
In urban areas where officials recorded a cause for the crash, the biggest culprit seemed to be “failed to control speed,” which was the factor in 316 fatal crashes. The second highest contributing factor in 2016 was “failed to drive in single lane” with 291 crashes. A pedestrian’s failure to yield to a vehicle represented 288 fatal crashes that same year. Fourth on the list is driver inattention, which accounted for 180 fatal crashes, followed by speeding, which accounted for 170 fatal crashes.
What You Can Do to Stay Safe
In almost half of the fatalities in Texas in 2016, victims were not wearing a seatbelt. Numerous studies and data show that seatbelts save lives. Just by buckling up, motorists in Texas could keep themselves and their passengers safer.
In addition to that, there are specific things you can do to drive defensively and reduce your chances of getting into an accident:
- Control your speed. Plan your trips to give yourself enough time to account for traffic. If someone is tailgating, move over and let them pass. Your stress level and sense of peace are not worth proving a point.
- Pay attention. With so many demands on our time, it’s easy to get distracted by that text, call, radio station, checking email or even the other passengers in your car. The second highest contributing factor to fatal crashes was the failure to drive in your lane. Keep it between the lines. The fourth highest contributing factor was driver inattention. Those texts, calls and emails can wait.
- Stay safe. Alcohol and medications can play a factor in crashes, as well. Alcohol was a factor in 987 deaths last year. If you’ve had too much to drink, ask a friend to drive you or use one of the many ride-share businesses that are available in Texas.
- Know your limits. Fatigue played a big role in many of the crashes around Odessa and Midland when workers in the oil and gas industry left the job site after working long shifts. Don’t get behind the wheel if you can’t make the trip safely.
- Maintain your distance. Understand that just because you’re paying attention to traffic, the driver in front of you might not be. Maintain a proper distance just in case that person suddenly brakes in traffic, slows down for no apparent reason or swerves into the other lane.
Slack & Davis Lawyers Advocate For You In An Auto Accident
The biggest risk we take each day is getting behind the wheel. Our experienced auto and truck accident lawyers have decades of experience working with victims and their families who have suffered life-altering injuries in a car crash. Our compassionate lawyers have decades of experience fighting for just compensation for victims of these tragic events.