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Falling Texas Traffic Fatalities Still Above U.S. Average

Earlier in August, the Texas Department of Transportation released an audit that shows a 15 percent decrease in traffic fatalities since 2006. In 2010, Texans drove about 234 billion miles, resulting in 3,028 traffic deaths. That comes out to 1.29 fatalities per 100 million miles driven, a traffic safety formula used by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2006, the ratio was 1.5 deaths per 100 million.

Across the United States fatalities fell even more dramatically, from 42,708 in 2006 to 32,885 in 2010. This 21.8 percent drop brought the nation's fatalities per 100 million to 1.1, nearly 15 lower than Texas' number for the same year.

Several safety measures fuel improved accident statistics

This decrease in auto accidents and fatalities is great news for motorists, pedestrians and anyone else who uses the road. It speaks to the effectiveness of several safety initiatives:

  • Seat belt usage - Owing in part to Texas' ongoing "Click It or Ticket," campaign, seat belt use has increased to nearly 94 percent in Texas - up from 74 percent just a decade earlier.
  • Drunken driving enforcement - Using methods like sobriety checkpoints and ignition interlock devices, law enforcement officials have made great strides in the battle against impaired driving.
  • Campaigns against distracted driving - In recent years, more and more information on the dangers of distracted driving have surfaced and some motorists have listened.
  • Car safety improvements - The growing use of airbags, electronic stability control and improved crash tests have led to safer cars on the road, an important first step in preventing fatal accidents.

More work to do

While this recent data is encouraging, motorists and safety officials still have a long way to go when it comes to road safety. According to 2009 data, Texas is the 16th most dangerous state for drivers.

Texas lags perhaps in part because the state has yet to outlaw texting while driving. Last year, Gov. Rick Perry vetoed a bill to ban distracted driving.

"Although we may be moving in the right direction in some areas, there are still far too many people dying on our roadways," AAA spokesman Doug Shupe told the Austin-American Statesman. Shupe mentioned speeding, red light running and drowsy driving as additional risk factors that can lead to fatal accidents.

Source: Statesman.com, "Texas' traffic fatality rate dips, still above national average," Ben Wear, Aug. 31, 2012.