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What's the Matter With Bell County?

construction road construction.jpgTexas Road Construction Season Invites Reflection

Driving in Texas after road construction season begins can be frustrating. Drivers can spend lots of time sitting in traffic and moving very slowly. However, for a few Texas drivers, road construction season results in deadly accidents, not just irritation. In 2013, there were 115 fatalities in work zones on Texas roadways. Additionally, there were 3,528 serious injuries as a result of crashes at road construction sites.

Most Dangerous Counties for Work Zone Deaths - 2013

Where do these serious accidents happen? Not surprisingly, they mostly occur in the most densely populated areas of the state. In 2013, the top five counties for road construction fatalities were:

  • Bell
  • Dallas
  • Denton
  • Harris
  • Tennant

The number of fatal road construction accidents in Dallas, Denton, Harris and Tennant counties makes sense - these are the major population centers in Texas. However, why is Bell County on this short list? Bell County is only the 16thlargest county in the state in terms of population.

2014 Even Worse

The problem in Bell County and the rest of Texas appears to be getting worse. In 2014, there were 150 people killed in work zone crashes, and Bell County one again appeared in the list of counties with the largest number of work zone deaths. One explanation for this state of affairs was offered by a Texas Department of Transportation spokesperson, who noted that I-35 has so much construction and so many work zones in Bell County that drivers get careless and stop paying attention.

Not paying attention means that drivers are much more likely to speed in construction zones, creating ideal conditions for serious and fatal accidents. One state trooper noted that most work zone accidents are entirely preventable, if people would only follow the rules - reduce speed in construction zones, don't pass when prohibited and don't follow too closely, even when the posted speed has been reduced because of a work zone.

Bell County Has Higher-Than-Average Rate of Fatal Crashes Overall

The death rate in Bell County from motor vehicle accidents overall, not just work zone accidents, is higher than the national average, according to a 2013 report. Is this connected to the fact that Bell County also has a high rate of DUI-related motor vehicle deaths? Additional analysis is needed to identify such links. However, the bottom line is that when driving in Bell County, it is important to stay alert, whether to posted speeds in work zones or to erratic driving resulting from operating under the influence.

And this caution applies to every county in Texas, not just outliers like Bell County. Drivers must pay attention to changing road conditions and watch out for other drivers, wherever they are.

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