On Feb. 10, 2012, 19-year-olds Katie Walker and Anne Donlon were driving along Roberts Cemetery Road in Hockley when tragedy struck. The teenagers were killed in a head-on collision on a sharp curve near Nichols Sawmill Road during heavy rainfall.
Shortly after the girls’ deaths, their families came together to commemorate them with a memorial that stands today on Roberts Cemetery. The memorial, which also commemorates Leslie Kitson, who was killed in an accident on the same road Feb. 13, 2005, serves as a reminder of the importance of safety as Montgomery County works to improve its roads.
“The rumble strips [on Roberts Cemetery] were put in almost 2 1/2 years ago,” Montgomery County Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley said. “It was a new high-density type that we had used over on Butera Road, and it seemed to work pretty well. The timing just happened to be pretty close to the death of those two girls.”
From January 2010 to July 5, 2015, Montgomery County has seen 305 motor vehicle fatalities, the eighth-most in the state during that time period, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.
Erik Burse, public information officer for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said one of the primary reasons for the high number of fatalities on county roads is the rapid increase in population the county has experienced.
“The county is growing, and nothing is changing," he said. "The roadways are still the same. You have more drivers on the road than you had 10 or 15 years ago.”
There are a number of winding, two-lane roads throughout Montgomery County that can be dangerous for drivers, Riley said.
“If you raise a shoulder up, you’d be surprised how many cars will stay on the road," Riley said. "We’ve done it at Butera, and we’ve done it at Roberts Cemetery at every curve. These roads were never meant to be carrying this kind of traffic. We’ve learned a lot trying to get the roads where they need to be.”
Compared with interstates and U.S. and state highways, farm-to-market and county roads in Montgomery County are the site of about 70 percent of fatal vehicle crashes, according to TxDOT.
“The county is growing, and nothing is changing. The roadways are still the same. You have more drivers on the road than you had 10 or 15 years ago.”
—Erik Burse, public information officer for the Texas Department of Public Safety
TxDOT Public Information Officer Danny Perez said the agency redesigns roadways—depending on available funding—if they prove to be dangerous.
“We do this by program calls for construction, maintenance and operations for added safety features, such as widening, rumble strips, added signage, signalization, surface treatment [and] access management,” he said.
The cause of most fatalities throughout the state, according to TxDOT, is drivers under the influence of alcohol. In 2014, 593 fatality accidents in Texas were caused by drivers under the influence of alcohol, more than any other cause reported by TxDOT.
During the past five years, there have been 101 fatal accidents in Montgomery County that have resulted from driving under the influence, according to TxDOT.
One longtime effort to curb drunken driving is the Shattered Lives program. The program, which depicts a mock drunken driving accident scene for high school students, is offered at several districts in Montgomery County, including Magnolia, Conroe, New Caney and Splendora ISDs.
“Above anything, if [Shattered Lives] doesn’t have an impact, I don’t know what else possibly could,” Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal said.