texas highway april

Interesting Texas Traffic Stories for April, 2019



Check out some of the interesting news stories and developments affecting Texas drivers from the past month.

Distracted Driving Top of Mind for Some Texas Lawmakers (WBAP 820AM)

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and authorities are reminding drivers to put away the distractions and stay focused on the road.

The Insurance Council of Texas said in a statement Tuesday that distracted driving remains a very serious problem on Texas roads. According to information from the Texas Department of Transportation, 1 in 5 crashes involve distracted driving. Discussions on distracted driving often focus on cell phone use, but by definition, distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving.

In 2017, according to TXDOT, 19 percent of vehicle crashes on Texas roads involved distracted driving. Those 100,687 crashes resulted in 444 deaths and 2,889 serious injuries. Similarly, according to information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,166 people were killed in distraction-affected crashes across the country.

Earlier this year, ICT reported that Texas traffic fatalities had declined by 4 percent in 2018, the first such decline since 2010. But despite the decline, Texas remains among the highest in the nation in the number of traffic fatalities and we need to do more to continue reducing this number. Throughout April, many ICT member companies will be educating on the dangers of distracted driving, urging drivers to stay focused on the roads, and curb distracted driving habits.

Since September 1, 2017, Texas has had a statewide ban on the use of cell phones for reading or writing text messages or emails while driving. [Read more…]

Transportation projects that will shape Houston in 2019 (Chron)

Houston-area drivers can expect easier commutes if more than two dozen major Texas Department of Transportation projects make their estimated completion dates in 2019.

Close to 30 transportation projects, each with budgets of at least $3 million, are expected to finish some time this year according to information from seven offices in TxDOT's Houston district.

The most expensive projects are located primarily along U.S. Highway 290, one of many traffic hotspots in the city. The five 290 projects, all of which are lane-widening operations in the West Harris County area, have a combined cost of $260 million.

The most expensive project on 290 is the $85.2 million reconstruction and widening from east of Mueschke Road to east of Telge Road. That portion will be widened to eight main-lanes with two reversible managed lanes, as well as auxiliary lanes and two-lane frontage roads. [Read more…]

Lawmakers say Texas getting shortchanged on highway funds (Houston Chronicle)

Some Texas gasoline tax money is making its way to Washington D.C. never to return, a situation federal lawmakers say is shortchanging the Lone Star State by nearly $1 billion a year.

In a March 26 letter, Texas’ entire D.C. delegation — two senators and 36 representatives — urged their House and Senate colleagues that oversee transportation funding to fix the formula that doles out the Highway Trust Fund.

Because of decade-old rules for how money flows from the gas pump to Washington and back, Texas drivers are the only motorists in the nation that pay more in fuel taxes than they receive in highway spending.

“Texas only receives 95 cents back for every dollar it sent to Washington in federal fuel taxes,” lawmakers wrote in the letter, spearheaded by Dallas area Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson.

That nickel adds up. If Texas received the amount it contributes relative to the total take, officials said, the state’s share from the highway fund would jump from $3.79 billion to more than $4.73 billion annually. Right now, Texas contributes $220 million more than it receives, and gets none of the money lawmakers add to shore up the highway fund. [Read more…]

Siemens Mobility launches new Digital Lab for ITS in Texas (Traffic Technology Today)

Siemens Mobility has announced the opening of its new Digital Lab for intelligent transportation systems (ITS). The lab, located in Austin in Texas, USA, will monitor, collect and analyze data to enhance the development of important digital urban mobility technologies.

Key focus areas will be new technologies such as connected vehicles, self-driving vehicles, advanced traffic management systems, multimodal transportation, shared mobility, electric bike sharing and fleet management.

“The amount of data that we are now collecting from various traffic technologies and intelligent infrastructure is extremely valuable for transport operators,” said Marcus Welz, president of Siemens Intelligent Traffic Systems in the USA.

“The key is to help them by translating the data into the right urban mobility solution or application to ultimately solve real-world mobility problems – and that’s what this ITS Digital Lab is going to do.”

The new center features an open layout supportive of design thinking methodologies needed for rapid prototyping and co-creation with customers. The Lab will primarily house data engineers, software developers and data scientists who are experts in machine learning and artificial intelligence.

With digitization, Siemens Mobility is enabling mobility operators worldwide to make infrastructure intelligent, increase value sustainably over the entire lifecycle, enhance passenger experience and guarantee availability. [Read more…]

Attempts to outlaw red-light cameras hit a slowdown (Texas Monitor)

After years of battling local governments, opponents of red light traffic cameras appeared to have the political momentum this spring to shut them off across Texas.

However, on Wednesday morning during a hearing before the state Senate Transportation Committee, that effort ran into its own red-light.

Activists who had prepared to speak in favor of state Sen. Bob Hall’s Senate Bill 653 told committee members they had changed their minds after hearing that Hall had allowed a revision that would grandfather in the automated traffic light systems in several Texas cities.

“Here we go again,” Byron Schirmbeck, Texas director for the nonprofit Campaign for Liberty, told the committee. “If you pass a ban in Texas and you don’t get rid of all of the cameras in the state, then you haven’t passed a ban.”

The Transportation Committee left SB653 pending and those on both sides of the controversy wondering what would become of the bill.

The answer is likely to come when the House version of the bill, without the grandfather clause, is heard for the first time by the House Committee on Transportation, as soon as next week. [Read more…]

Texas gas prices jump 29 percent in March, expected to keep climbing (KHOU 11)

Gas prices have jumped 29 cents in Texas in just one month, according to AAA officials, who say drivers can expect to pay more into summer.

AAA reports Texas drivers are paying $2.47 a gallon on average for regular unleaded fuel. In Houston, it costs $2.48 per gallon on average to fill up, 20 cents lower than the national average of $2.68.

AAA says higher demand and tighter supply pushed prices up in March. They predict prices will climb to $2.75 a gallon by summer nationwide.

"If you're on the west coast, you could see it increase a bit more, but more states and in the southern part of the country will definitely see that 10-cent increase,” said Jeanette Casselano, a spokesperson for AAA.

Dr. Steven Craig, a University of Houston economics professor, says the higher prices are due to OPEC production cuts, U.S. imposed sanctions on Iran and Venezuela, and refinery outages as producers switch to higher ethanol blends for the summer. [Read more…]

HOW AGGRESSIVE ARE TEXAS DRIVERS? (92.9 NiN)

We've all had the frustration of driving through major Texas cities like Dallas and Austin, but just how much of that frustration is due to aggressive drivers?

The driving tracking app GasBuddy compiled its list of the most aggressive drivers in major metropolitan cities across the country, using its assessment of drivers' habits and when aggressive acts such as speeding, hard breaking, and sudden acceleration took place.

While 40% of the list was taken up by California, Texas made only a single appearance on the list… [Read more…]

Most Driver's License Suspensions In Texas Are Because Drivers Can't Afford To Pay Their Fines (KUT 90.5)

Seven out of 10 driver's license suspensions in Texas are due to drivers' inability to pay fees and surcharges from courts and the Texas Department of Public Safety, according to a new study from nonprofits Texas Appleseed and Texas Fair Defense Project.

Of the 2.3 million suspensions in Texas, the bulk of them, 1.5 million, come from DPS’ Driver Responsibility Program, which imposes surcharges on top of fines for traffic citations, often leading to a suspension. Those surcharges recur annually for three years and can create financial hurdles for drivers looking to reinstate their licenses, the study argues, because they can’t afford them.

The vast majority of those suspensions, the study found, were the result of citations for driving without a valid license or driving without insurance – not public safety-related citations like driving while intoxicated or speeding.

While Texas lawmakers initially intended for the compounding fines and suspensions to keep dangerous drivers and repeat offenders off the roads, study co-author Mary Mergler with Texas Appleseed says the lion’s share of suspensions impact low-income drivers who simply can’t pay the compounding fines and surcharges, which range from $100 to $250 per year for up to three years after a ticket.

"It prevents people from not only earning the money that they need to pay off those fines and surcharges, but also just earning a living to support their families," Mergler said.

Those citations often lead to arrests and jail for those who can't pay the fines but still need to get around in car-dependent Texas. Driving without a valid license is a class C misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine but no jail time. [Read more…]

Help for strapped North Texas driver's license centers included in Texas House's approved budget (Dallas News)

A budget bearing the best news in 13 years for Texas’ more than 5 million schoolchildren — as well as some plums for North Texas — cleared the House early Thursday.

The vote was 149-0.

A nearly 16 percent increase in state funding of prekindergarten through 12th grade would boost classroom funding. Other increases would put the brakes on retired teachers’ rising health insurance premiums and give them their first cost-of-living increase in years.

The education gains would coincide with tax relief for homeowners and businesses. The tax cuts, though, would require passage of a House school-finance plan.

“This is an extraordinary budget,” boasted House Appropriations Committee Chairman John Zerwas. Credit goes to an “incredibly prosperous” Texas economy, said Zerwas, a Richmond Republican who again is the chamber’s top budget writer.

“We had to create a very lean budget last time,” he recalled. [Read more…]

Why does Texas drive poor drivers into debt? (My San Antonio)

Let’s imagine you have been immersed in reading yet another Express-News editorial. This time it’s about traffic tickets. Who knew there was so much to learn about something so mundane?

It is such an interesting and well-written editorial you forget about that 9 a.m. meeting with your boss. You snap out of it at 8:55 a.m. and race out the door. You are speeding down the road, and you just might be fashionably late, but a San Antonio police officer pulls you over for speeding. Busted. The officer is polite and friendly but still writes you a big, fat ticket.

Man, what a crummy morning, but you can pay the fine and life goes on.

But what if you can’t pay the ticket?

Your license will get suspended, and then there will be additional fees. But you still have to get to work, and your kids have soccer practice at night, and the closest grocery store is 2 miles away. Maybe you can rely on VIA Metropolitan Transit, which is underfunded, but then again, VIA isn’t always super convenient and San Antonio isn’t exactly the most walkable city. [Read more...]

Proposed Bill Would Waive DPS Driving Test For Texas Teens (Houston Public Media)

The Texas Legislature is considering a bill to change how the state handles driver license tests for those under the age of 18.

For years, students who had their parents teach them to drive could have the test waived in favor of a parent-led test.

But the state legislature made a change to the Texas Transportation Code in 2009, requiring individuals younger than 18 take a test administered by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

State Representative James White, a Republican who represents District 19 in the area around Woodville, has filed a bill to reverse the current law and allow individuals under 18 to have the test waived.

“They still have to take the test. The parent has to issue the test,” White told Houston Matters on Monday. He hopes that returning to the original law might alleviate wait times at Department of Public Safety offices that issue driver licenses. [Read more…]

San Antonio drivers are the most stressed in Texas (NEWS4SA)

It comes as no surprise that San Antonio tops the list as the most stressed city in Texas when it comes to driving in traffic.

BabylonHealth has released its list after analyzing Twitter content to find out where people are most likely to tweet about stress, anxiety and frustration while driving. They used a tool called TensiStrengh to estimate stress levels of tweets using certain words.

San Antonio had a whopping 11.62 percent of people publishing “stressed” tweets. Houston was not far behind with 11.60 percent. Overall, Texas came in at number 12 of the most stressed states.

Here is how the rest of Texas ranks… [Read more…]

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