Could Texas End the Streak of roadway fatalities? So far, no, despite 2020 declines in traffic across Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin

Traffic crashes are down statewide, but the Texas Department of Transportation is reporting traffic fatalities have remained the same despite fewer drivers on the road. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Traffic crashes are down statewide, but the Texas Department of Transportation is reporting traffic fatalities have remained the same despite fewer drivers on the road. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)

Traffic crashes are down statewide, but the Texas Department of Transportation is reporting traffic fatalities have remained the same despite fewer drivers on the road. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)

Traffic fatalities on roads throughout Texas have continued at roughly the same pace in 2020 despite major Texas metros seeing a drop in the number of reported crashes and traffic volumes.

Between Jan. 1 and April 15, the number of traffic crashes dropped between 11% and 15% in 2020 compared to the same time period in 2019 in the Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston metros, according to an April 21 analysis of Texas Department of Transportation data by Community Impact Newspaper. However, data from TxDOT shows the number of traffic fatalities has only dropped by 3.35% in the same time period in 2020 compared to 2019.

TxDOT’s Crash Records Information System denotes the number of traffic fatalities between Jan. 1 and April 15 only declined from 865 deaths in 2019 to 836 during the same time period in 2020.

Veronica Beyer, director of media relations for TxDOT, said the agency reported 12 fatalities Feb. 22 and 11 fatalities on March 22 when the state was under stay-at-home orders.

“We’ve always believed that ending the streak of daily deaths on Texas roadways is achievable,” she said. “Unfortunately, we’re not there yet. Despite the drop in traffic and despite the drop in crashes in certain areas across the state we are still seeing traffic deaths.”

Beyer said further analysis of the contributing factors into the traffic deaths showed one to be failure to stay in one lane, which includes speeding, texting while driving or driving drunk. Driving at an unsafe speed and failure to control speed were other top factors leading to the fatalities, she said.

“These are things that are preventable,” Beyer said. “We are the ones as drivers who can make better decisions behind the wheel. We are the ones who have the power to put the phone down, drive the safe speed limit.”

Since Nov. 7, 2000, the state has not had a day without a traffic fatality and sees an average of 10 deaths on Texas roadways each day, according to TxDOT. The agency launched its #EndTheStreakTX campaign to spread the message of obeying traffic laws and staying safe on the road.

“We’re still seeing way too high of a number of fatalities,” Beyer said.

TxDOT analyzed the traffic volume for the week April 4-10 and compared it to a base week of Feb. 22-28 prior to any business closures and stay-at-home orders because of the coronavirus. Data shows traffic dropped by 44% with the largest drops in San Antonio, which saw a decline by 50%, and in Austin, which saw traffic drop by 49%.

The weekend had the biggest drop in traffic by 55% for April 4-5 throughout the state.

However, more drivers were on the roads during the week of April 11-17 as traffic across the state was only down 41% compared to the base week in February, according to TxDOT traffic volume data.

Here is a look at how traffic crashes have dropped in counties covered by Community Impact Newspaper:

Central Texas area

Dallas-Fort Worth metro

Houston metro

By Amy Denney
Amy has worked for Community Impact Newspaper since September 2010, serving as reporter and then senior editor for the Northwest Austin edition and covering transportation. She is now managing editor for the nine publications in the Central Texas area.


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