Interesting Texas Traffic Stories for October, 2018

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

Top Traffic-Death Rate Stems From Houston’s Commuting Culture And Infrastructure (Texas Standard)

A Houston Chronicle investigation has found that Houston’s highways – and the drivers who use them – are the deadliest in the nation. The death toll from car crashes in the Houston area every year is “the equivalent of three fully loaded 737s,” the Chronicle reports.

Steve Riley, deputy managing editor of investigations at the Houston Chronicle, says the story first came about through the paper’s transportation writer, Doug Begley. Riley says Begley had noticed a spike in traffic-accident deaths a few years ago, and decided to investigate. What he found was elevated rates of traffic deaths in the entire Houston-metropolitan area.

“When you take the federal data and dice it and slice it, as Doug did, in several different ways, every way that we looked at it – by per capita with population, according to miles driven – …Houston just sinks to the bottom as far as number of deaths in all sorts of different categories,” Riley says. [Read more…]

Want to see Houston drivers slow down? Here's how to report the problem (Houston Chronicle)

Want to see drivers slow down? We've found some options for how to report the problem. But first, a quick primer on how setting speeds works.

Speeds are determined by various local officials, depending on whose road it is. The starting point is Texas law sets the prima facie speed — the base minimum speed — at 30 mph in urban areas. County roads outside an urban area are based on 60 mph and any state highway designated by a number — ranging from farm-to-market roads to interstates — starts at 70 mph as a base speed.

Changes to those could only be made by state lawmakers. [Read more…]

Out of Control. Houston’s roads, drivers are country’s most deadly (Houston Chronicle)

The risk surrounds us, moves with us, passes us. It follows us on the way to work, to school, to church. We see it coming in the rear-view mirror.

A pickup plows into the back of a helpless car at 100 mph in northwest Harris County, killing two. A 17-year-old loses control on a narrow rural road in Fort Bend County, strikes a power pole and lands in a cornfield, pronounced dead at a hospital.

A driver doesn't stop after hitting and killing a woman standing on Texas 249. Two drivers collide head-on in Fort Bend County, killing both and sparking a five-car pileup. A motorcyclist exiting Loop 610 at Richmond dies after a BMW barrels into him and two other riders.

The Chronicle plotted crashes on a map based on the location specified by the crash report, either by latitude and longitude or corresponding intersection. If no specific location was listed on the report, the accident was placed in the county in which it occurred for counting purposes.

We derived totals by counting crashes within the boundaries of the 12 largest metropolitan areas by population as of 2017, as determined by the Census Bureau. In Houston, the metropolitan statistical area is nine counties: Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery and Waller.

We drive past the crashes, numbed to their frequency, by how they add up. But they do: 640 people a year die on Houston-area roads, and 2,850 more are seriously injured.

The carnage, all factors considered, makes Houston the most deadly major metro area in the nation for drivers, passengers and people in their path, a Houston Chronicle analysis of 16 years of federal highway data reveals. [Read more…]

Gov. Greg Abbott says it’s time to turn off red light cameras in Texas (Star-Telegram)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said it’s time to turn off red light cameras across Texas.

Many believe the cameras violate the U.S. Constitution and lead to more rear-end accidents at intersections with cameras. Others say they make streets safer and generate needed revenue for cities across the state.

But Monday, in McAllen, Abbott issued a 21-page report — Safeguarding, Securing, Serving — calling for policies he would support if he’s re-elected to a second term in November.

Among his proposals: cracking down on gangs, disrupting human trafficking and smuggling, keeping peace officers safe and “strengthening the rights of Texas drivers.” [Read more…]

Dallas Sen. Royce West hopes new training for Texas drivers, police and high school students will ease tensions (Dallas News)

A peaceful protest in downtown Dallas over the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile turned violent in July 2016, when a gunman took the lives of five police officers.

At the time, Dallas Sen. Royce West called Dallas “ground zero for change” and said he wanted to address the tension between law enforcement and the minority community. The result is a law the Legislature passed last year to require that Texas students, drivers and law enforcement be taught how to behave during traffic stops.

He said the bill he wrote focused on traffic stops because Castile was fatally shot by a Minnesota officer while he was reaching for his driver’s license. In July 2015, Sandra Bland was arrested after a traffic stop in Texas and later found dead in her jail cell. [Read more…]

What type of documents do you need to drive a car in Texas? Curious Texas digs in the glove box (Dallas News)

Connie Moss recently read a news story about a man who was stopped by police in Texas, and during that stop he was asked to present his vehicle’s registration.

"I was wondering why this person went to get his registration out of the car," she said. "I've got my registration sticker, insurance, driver's license, but I don't carry the registration."

She said she was aware that police often ask drivers during traffic stops to present their driver’s license and insurance, but her vehicle’s registration was something she had never carried with her. She said she began to wonder if she had been driving in Texas for 30 years without proper documentation.

That’s when Moss asked us: What documents are drivers required to have in each vehicle? I thought it was only your current driver’s license and proof of insurance? [Read more…]

AAA Texas: Drivers rely too heavily on new vehicle safety technologies in spite of limitations (Everything Lubbock)

More and more, drivers are recognizing the value in having vehicles with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) like blind spot monitoring systems, forward collision warning and lane keeping assist. However, while many of these technologies are rapidly being offered as standard, many drivers are unaware of the safety limitations of ADAS in their vehicles, according to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. For example, researchers found that nearly 80 percent of drivers with blind spot monitoring systems were unaware of limitations or incorrectly believed the system could accurately detect vehicles passing at very high speeds or bicycles and pedestrians. In reality, the technology can only detect when a vehicle is traveling in a driver’s blind spot and many systems do not reliably detect pedestrians or cyclists. Lack of understanding or confusion about the proper function of ADAS technologies can lead to misuse and overreliance on the systems, which could result in a deadly crash.

“When properly utilized, ADAS technologies have the potential to prevent 40 percent of all vehicle crashes and nearly 30 percent of traffic deaths. However, driver understanding and proper use is crucial in reaping the full safety benefits of these systems,” said Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Findings from this new research show that there is still a lot of work to be done in educating drivers about proper use of ADAS technologies and their limitations.” [Read more...]

Deadly weekend shows why Houston is tops for traffic deaths (Houston Chronicle)

The weather may be cooling down, but there is no drop in the death count on Houston roads, continuing their reputation as the nation’s deadliest.

This weekend, two crashes each claimed two lives, along with two other wrecks that sent people to the hospital. That is not unusual for a weekend in the Houston area, though these crashes were especially severe. [Read more…]

Drowsy Texas drivers more likely to kill someone than in any other state (FOX San Antonio)

Drowsy Texas drivers are more likely to kill someone than in any other state.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration put together the new data.

Between 2012 and 2016, nearly a quarter of all deadly U.S. drowsy driving crashes happened in Texas. That comes out to 876 deaths in all. [Read more…]

Texas to receive more than $6.4 million in Uber data breach settlement (KENS 5)

Attorney General Ken Paxton and representatives from all other states and Washington, D.C announced a $148 million settlement with Uber over its one-year delay in reporting a data breach regarding its drivers.

Uber learned in November 2016 that hackers gained access to some personal information that the company maintains about its drivers, including drivers’ license information of approximately 600,000 drivers nationwide. Uber tracked down the hackers and obtained assurances that they deleted the information. However, Uber failed to report the breach in a timely manner in accordance with state law and waited until November 2017 to report it or inform affected drivers that their drivers’ license information had been unlawfully accessed. [Read more...]

We don't do rain, the Tollway is our Autobahn and other things newcomers need to know about Dallas drivers (Dallas News)

Dear Newcomer,

Welcome to the Dallas area!

You’ll encounter some quaint local customs. But we’ll save for another day discussions of bootwear, sauceless barbecue, the heresy of beans in chili, watering your foundation, pronouncing Gruene and Mexia, and deep-fried heaven-knows-what at the State Fair of Texas.

Today, let’s talk about driving in Big D. (By the way, now that you live here, you should know that we almost never say “Big D” except for comic effect.)

There are things you need to know about getting around in your new hometown. Perhaps the roughly 400 people moving each day to the Dallas-Fort Worth region or Toyota's California transplants have already noticed the difference. [Read more…]

Editorial: Texas needs to hand its drivers a new cellphone use law (Star-Telegram)

We’ve all seen it: The light turns green but the guy ahead of us doesn’t move — until he lifts his head from looking at his cellphone.

Or the car ahead of you on the four-lane highway wanders in and out of its lane. You seize the opportunity to zip past and see the driver on her cellphone.

Like the rest of America, we Texans love our cars and our cellphones.

Unfortunately, the combination threatens to kill us.

Texas enacted a ban on texting and driving on Sept. 1, 2017, to try and reduce the risk. But we believe the law is ineffectual and nearly unenforceable.

Texas should follow the lead of 16 other states and allow only hands-free use of cellphones by drivers. [Read more…]

Out of Control. Houston is ‘ground zero’ for drunken and drugged driving (Houston Chronicle)

Mishann Childers slowed as the flashing lights came into view.

Telge Road in northwest Harris County was closed. A crash, a sheriff's deputy said. Someone hit a silver Buick. Her husband, Wayne, drove a silver Buick. He often took that road.

Owen McNett's blood-alcohol content was nearly four times the legal limit when he crashed into Wayne Childers' car, killing him, police said. Five times before, McNett had been arrested for driving drunk, with two lengthy prison stays. That rainy Friday night in February became the sixth. He had a valid Texas driver's license.

Consider the tragedy for the Childers, then multiply it by more than 300 each year. Drivers impaired by booze and drugs are dying — and killing — in the Houston area at a startling rate, an epidemic unchecked by police, prosecutors or public-awareness campaigns. [Read more...]

TxDOT Implementing Safety Measures to Protect Drivers, Volunteers (KRGV 5)

Along Highway 48 in Cameron County, brown pelicans spend time around flying low and often, get stuck in the lanes of traffic.

A Texas Department of Transportation engineer believes the bridge is causing a turbulence that affects the bird.

“It’s called bad air or disruptions or low pressure,” says Homer Bazan. “It kind of pushes them down toward the highway.”

KRGV’s Christian von Preysing learned the agency plans to replace the side of the bridge. They also plan to place signs to warn drivers of volunteers assisting in the area. [Read more…]

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