After last year's Houston Chronicle investigation, "Out of Control," local law enforcements have responded with the establishment of a regional task force to better patrol the roads. The article identified that "more than 600 motorists, passengers and pedestrians die every year in traffic collisions often caused by drivers who are speeding, driving while intoxicated or distracted and often on poorly designed roads", ranking Houston roads among the nation's deadliest. The article also criticized local law enforcements for their lack of a comprehensive strategy to lower the number of traffic accidents, and even lowering the number of enforcements in certain regions where fatal accidents rose. However, Harris County Sherriff Ed Gonzales is hopeful that the creation of the new task group which aims to crack down on traffic violations and unsafe drivers will help keep the roads safer for Houstonians. Sherriff Ed Gonzales stated that "we want to make sure we're visible and not just performing spot enforcement, and make it more sustainable."
In 2017, Gabriela Torga, then 23 years old, was driving just after 5:00 in the morning when she veered from the left lane to the right shoulder. She overcorrected, slid counter-clockwise, hit the median and then slammed into a tree. She did not survive the crash. No one can definitively say whether Ms. Torga's cell phone was connected to the crash, but police say when the accident occurred, her phone was on and open to SnapChat and she was driving 55 mph in a 45 zone.
Pedestrian fatalities have risen 46 percent since 2009 while overall traffic fatalities are up only 11 percent. Many experts agree that distraction is a factor in pedestrian crashes and that combating both distracted driving and walking would help reduce the number of incidents, injuries, and deaths.
On December 19, 2017, around 5:45 a.m. all westbound main lanes of the 610 North Loop between I-45 and Airline were shut down after two early morning crashes involving five vehicles. One of those crashes, left one person dead.
On Thursday, October 27, at approximately 10 p.m. the driver of a Jeep vehicle crashed into the back of a Houston Fire Department truck on the East Freeway in Houston. The accident happened while the Houston firefighters were clearing a minor crash from the road.
According to a recent study funded by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Study, drivers using in-vehicle technologies such as touch screens and voice commands take their eyes and mental focus off the road and hands off the wheel for potentially dangerous periods of time. The technology, referred to as infotainment technology, allows drivers to use touch screens or voice commands to provide directions, play music, and place phone calls, among other options. Many of the latest systems also now allow drivers to perform tasks unrelated to driving like surfing the web, checking social media, or sending a text message.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released fatal traffic crash data collected from all 50 states and the District of Columbia for calendar year 2016. According to NHTSA, there were 37,461 people killed in crashes on U.S. roadways during 2016, an increase from 35,485 in 2015. The number of vehicle miles traveled on U.S. roads in 2016 increased by 2.2 percent, resulting in a 2.6 percent increase in fatalities from 2015. NHTSA found that distracted driving and drowsy driving fatalities declined, while fatalities related to other reckless behaviors such as speeding, alcohol impairment, and failure to wear a seatbelt increased from the previous year. Fatal traffic crashes increased from 2015 to 2016 in almost all segments of the population including passenger vehicle occupants, occupants of large trucks, pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, alcohol-impaired driving, and time of day (daytime/nighttime).
Last week, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) announced a new driving course to educate drivers on the dangers of distracted driving. Beginning on September 1, 2017, all skills examination applicants ages 18 and older must complete a free, one-hour "Impact Texas Young Drivers" (ITYD) course and obtain proof of course completion prior to taking the driving skills examination. In addition, drivers ages 18 to 24 will also be required to complete a six-hour adult driver education course prior to the skills examination. ITYD is the second course in the "Impact Texas Driver" program, which was developed in 2015 by the DPS with the aim of saving lives through awareness and education related to distracted driving. The first course, Impact Texas Teen Drivers, is a two-hour course that went into effect two years ago for drivers ages 15 to 17. In addition to the new courses, drivers are still required to complete the distracted driving module taught in the 32-hour teen driver education class along with six hours of adult driver education. The new ITYD course requirements are slated to go into effect the same day as the state-wide ban against texting and driving. The DPS also announced that a third course, "Impact Texas Adult Drivers" for drivers 25 and older, will be implemented in 2018. In the meantime, drivers in that age group will still be required to take the ITYD course to obtain a license.
One mother shares her tragic story about a fatal car crash that took away her two teenage daughters. The two sisters, 19-year-old Brianna and 17-year-old Jade, were traveling home from Spring break with their friends. Tragically, the driver of the car they were in lost control while checking for directions on her phone. An 18-wheeler struck the car from behind and killed backseat passengers, Brianna and their friend Brittanie Johnson, upon impact. Jade, in the front passenger seat, died several hours later, and the driver of the vehicle was critically injured but ultimately survived. The mother, Stacey Riddle, joined a campaign with the aim of spreading the "talk, text, crash" message, a problem she fears will continue if not talked about. Ms. Riddle pleads with drivers to be more careful on the roads.