The year 2020 was an unusual traffic year. Pandemic lockdowns and a drop in tourist travel caused traffic levels to decrease by about 13%. At the same time, traffic deaths increased by about 7%.
Transportation experts hoped that 2021 would represent a reversion to more normal levels. But while traffic levels returned to normal, road deaths continued to increase. In Texas, 2021 road deaths matched the second-deadliest year on record with 4,480 deaths.
Here are some facts about Texas road deaths in 2021 and possible solutions to drivers’ problems.
Reasons Why Texas Road Deaths Have Increased
Texas road deaths have seen an upward trend since 2020. Despite a 9.6% drop in vehicle miles traveled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, traffic deaths increased by over 7.5% that year.
There was no single reason for the increase in road deaths in 2020. Some theories include:
- Speeding increased due to lower traffic and less enforcement
- Drug and alcohol consumption increased during the pandemic
- Seat belt and motorcycle helmet use decreased
If 2020’s increase in road deaths was mysterious, 2021’s continuation of the increase was just as confusing.
Economic activity returned to normal by the second half of 2021. And traffic congestion and traffic enforcement had largely returned to normal early in the year.
Traffic jams and driving citations should encourage drivers to take fewer risks. But many of the risky behaviors from 2020 continued through 2021, despite heavier traffic.
Which Road Deaths Contributed to the Increase?
Road deaths that have trended upward since 2020 include:
Motorcycle deaths have increased in Texas for a variety of reasons. Helmet use among motorcyclists has decreased since Texas revoked its universal helmet law in 1997. Currently, only about 66% of motorcycle riders in Texas wear a helmet.
Wearing a helmet decreases the severity of the injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident. Without a helmet, injuries that would otherwise be survivable become fatal.
Distracted driving has also fueled an increase in motorcycle deaths. Drivers who are distracted are less likely to spot motorcycles because of their smaller size.
Unrestrained Vehicle Occupant Deaths
Seat belt use dropped during 2020 and 2021. Texas’s overall observed seat belt use sits at just over 91%, placing it among the top 20 states in seat belt use.
But Texas drivers used to do better. Seat belt use in Texas has dropped by 3% in the past ten years. This might not seem like much, but if Texas still had a 94% seat belt use rate, it would rank seventh in the nation rather than 19th.
In 2021, 1,219 motorists who died in Texas car accidents were not wearing a seat belt.
Bicycle use surged in 2020. Cyclists could not even find bicycles or bicycle parts in stores for a while. Significantly, these bicycles were used more for recreation than commuting. This made cycling safer, despite the increase in cyclists.
This surge in bicycle use continued in 2021. And as people returned to work and traffic returned to normal levels, bicycle accidents increased. More people attempted to commute to work on their bicycles. But increased road congestion placed these bicyclists in harm’s way, leading to more bicycle fatalities.
Traveling over the speed limit can cause other drivers to misjudge your distance or speed. Speeding also gives you less time to react to road hazards and increases your braking distance.
In Texas, road and weather conditions can include hurricanes, tornadoes, ice, and tropical storms. Even when you drive at the speed limit, it can be too fast for conditions.
Solutions for 2022
As the Texas Department of Transportation pointed out, there are no easy solutions to the increase in road deaths. Drivers will need to alter deeply ingrained behaviors. Slowing down, wearing a seat belt or motorcycle helmet, and putting the phone away will save lives if Texas drivers commit to these behaviors.
Contact the Houston Car Accident Lawyers at Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers For Help
For more information, contact the Houston car accident law firm of Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers by calling (713) 500 5000.
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