3 things to know about the Texas state bill to lower speed limits

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Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, held a press conference Thursday to explain why she is introducing a bill to lower speed limits on Texas city roads.

Here is what you need to know about the bill that Israel hopes will lower traffic fatalities throughout the state:

1. Israel filed the bill because of the high amount of mortality and injury rates on Texas roads. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, roughly 3,500 people died from traffic-related incidents in 2015. About 13,616 additional injuries were suffered from similar incidents.

Israel said Austin alone saw 102 pedestrian fatalities from traffic related accidents last year.

2. The bill targets prima facie speed limits, or the unspoken limit on roads without posted signs. That limit is currently set at 30 miles per hour. Israel’s bill would reduce that speed to 25 miles per hour.

AAA Texas released a study claiming by reducing the prima facie limit from 30 to 25 miles per hour, a pedestrian hit by a car going that speed would have an increased odds of survival by an estimated 43 percent. Currently, the odds of survival of a pedestrian hit by a car traveling at 30 miles per hour is 50 percent.

“Five miles per hour is a small price to pay for the life of a child,” Israel said.

3. The bill would only impact limits within urban districts. While cities themselves lower prima facie speed limits, it often requires traffic studies and an additional cost to taxpayers. This bill would uniformly impact these limits across the state, excluding those in areas not considered urban districts.

An urban district is defined very specifically within the Texas Transportation Code as a territory adjacent to and including a highway with surrounding structures for business, industry and residential homes that are located at intervals of less than 100 feet for a distance of at least one-quarter mile on either side the highway. Essentially, these areas are defined by density.

If a road is surrounded by enough people for the purpose of living or business, and doesn’t have a posted speed limit, it would likely be affected by this bill.

“This is not just an Austin issue, this is a state of Texas issue,” Israel said.

For the full text of the bill, look here.

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Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson is a recent transplant to the Austin area from Houston, Texas, where she started with Community Impact Newspaper in May 2016. Donaldson started covering public education in Cy-Fair ISD, the third largest school district in the state of Texas, and then she transitioned into her role as the company's legislative reporter, providing statehouse coverage for all 22 editions. Currently, she reports on the city of Round Rock and Round Rock ISD for the Round Rock, Pflugerville and Hutto edition. Donaldson graduated from the University of Missouri with bachelor's degrees in magazine journalism and political science.

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