Driver SafetyDeadliest Place to Drive: Is It Houston?

June 11, 2021
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Deadliest Place to Drive: Is It Houston?

Do we live in the deadliest place to drive? It’s quite possible these days. Houston is a massive, bustling city. Moreover, it’s constantly a work in progress with roadwork happening almost every day on roads and freeways. 

There’s a lot to love about Houston, and Houstonians are proud to live here. The city is a melting pot metropolis with incredible food and art scenes. However, one label to be less proud of is the “deadliest major metro area for drivers in the country. 

When we look to reddit, we see a steady stream of examples of the aggressive driving habits of those in the city. A transplant from Arizona posts “What the hell is it with Houston drivers?” Hundreds upon hundreds of anecdotes follow to show just how dangerous the roads can be. 

As we think back on the common causes of car accidents in Texas, we have to remember that driver error is often the root cause of auto accidents. This means that negligent drivers rolling stop signs, speeding, or driving distracted put others in danger every day. 

But there’s more to consider!

Houston Drivers & Houston Roads

As we consider why Houston traffic is so bad or why Houston drivers are so aggressive, we have to ask, “What’s going on with Houston roads?”

Across the city, there are more than 16,000 miles of road. These roads carry more traffic than the original design intended. Additionally, Houston has more motor vehicle accidents than any other Texas city. In this 2018 article, the writer states that roughly a dozen people die in Housto auto accidents weekly. 

Moreover, it’s essential to consider the infrastructure and design of the city, which is not without flaws. Our outdated infrastructure lays the groundwork for car wrecks. Still, what makes Houston the deadliest place to drive? 

Why Is Houston the Deadliest Place to Drive?

Let’s take a look at some of the culprits that make Houston such a dangerous place for drivers. 

Risky Road Regulations

As the Department of Transportation attempts to move as many people as possible in a city built for cars, they design roads for maximized speeds. In some parts of the city, the speed limit is 75mph. This includes parts of the Grand Parkway. 

Commuter Culture

About 80% of Houston drivers average 30 minutes one way to and from their jobs. When people spend more time on the road, it increases the odds of a motor vehicle accident. Moreover, long commutes have the potential to contribute to a driver’s fatigue and irritability. 

Lack of Space for Pedestrians & Cyclists

The design of Houston favors motor vehicles over pedestrians, cyclists, and mass transit. There’s no denying that even as the city cordons off bike lanes in some areas. Oftentimes, this forces pedestrians and cyclists to a much closer proximity to drivers than anyone on the road wants. 

Houston has over 6,200 miles of roadways. However, less than half of those miles include sidewalks. Additionally, Houstons boasts less than 300 miles of on-street bike lanes. As such, bicycle accident deaths in Texas spiked about 26% between the years of 2017 and 2018. 

As drivers and cyclists frustrate each other on the road, it contributes to Houston becoming the deadliest place to drive. 

Poorly Maintained Roads

There’s no secret about Houston streets. With numerous potholes and poorly applied patches of asphalt, it’s far too common for drivers to swerve away from a pothole at the last second. Otherwise, they hear a loud “CA-CHUNK” as the car’s undercarriage meets the road. 

Houston roads, across the city, are in dire need of repair and restoration. From faded striping to bad drainage, Houston roads are a mess. However, solving this issue creates another issue. 

Constant Road Construction

It’s strange how there is simultaneously perpetual construction yet still so many road hazards. With the unpredictable nature of road construction, traffic slows to a crawl, frustrating everyone on the road. 

This sets the stage for Houston as the deadliest place to drive, with so much potential for collisions. For instance, road work around the Galleria area, which has a major mix of Houstonians and out-of-towners, becomes a dangerous area for drivers. 

Law Enforcement

Lawmakers in Texas restrict the use of both video enforcement when people run red lights as well as speed cameras. In 2017, Houston PD wrote 41% fewer tickets compared to 2012. This is despite the fact that the amount miles traveled by vehicles in Houston increased by 23%. 

To make this a bit more specific, Harris County issued roughly 27% fewer tickets for speeding in 2017 compared to 2015. All the white, the county’s population grew by about 100,000. 

Outdated Construction

One thing that makes Houston potentially the deadliest place tod rive is the outdated roads. These old roadways are easily overwhelmed by the growth of the region. For instance, the ramps at 610 and Interstate 69 were built in 1979. Since then, they’ve seen renovation once back in 1999. 

This means they don’t necessarily meet current construction standards. As the city attempts to address them again, it brings traffic to a crawl. 

A Dangerous Design

Houston drivers constantly suffer from decisions urban planners made decades ago. The tight curves of the older freeways force drivers to slam on the brakes to avoid barriers, railings, and rear-end collisions. 

With merge lanes from the feeder roads, you risk the sudden appearance of a car in almost any direction. In fact, about 9% of fatal wrecks in our region occur on these frontage roads. 

Confusing Intersections

There are plenty of spots along Westheimer with shopping centers. In the period from 2012 to 2016, about 37% of the crashes in nine Houston counties occured at these types of intersections. Among Houston fatalities, these represented over 25%. 

Speaking of Westheimer…

Those Westheimer Woes

Westheimer runs for almost 20 miles, so it deserves its own section. This four-lane roads starts out in the Midtown area, one of the most congested parts of the city. As it moves west, it grows even wider. 

Each day, Westheimer carries around 74,000 vehicles. Moreover, in the downtown and Montrose stretches, the “slow lane” becomes so narrow that many drivers avoid it completely. When it comes to city buses and larger vehicles, they often have to use both lanes, clogging up traffic. 

While this sounds like bad behavior, the Metropolitan Transit Authority specifically instructs its drivers to straddle Westheimer for safety. However, the most severe collisions on Westheimer occur outside of the 610 Loop where the roads are newer and wider. 

On its own, Westheimer averages about four fatal collisions annually on the stretch from 610 to Highway 6. This is where the volume of the road grows heaviest. Back in 2005, the Department of Transportation in Texas added long medians to separate traffic. The idea was to limit the number of sudden turns. 

While traffic flows better, it also moves much faster as drivers speed from between intersections.

FM Roads

Suburban development changed how people use farm-to-market roads. Today, drivers speeding down FM 1960 have to slam on their brakes to avoid a collision with people suddenly turning into commercial spaces or residential neighborhoods. 

Oftentimes, this leads to fatal collisions. On its own, this roadway sees over 60,000 vehicles each day. Moreover, it sees roughly a dozen deaths annually. It’s easy to see why Houston might be the deadliest place to drive. 

So, Is Houston the Deadliest Place to Drive?

Whether Houston is deadliest place to drive or not, you can certainly see how dangerous it is for drivers. How do we keep ourselves safe out on the road?

Oftentimes, in cities like Houston, residents don’t want change (aside from maybe filling some potholes) PEople tend to oppose any modifications to the streets of their areas, but there’s always hope. 

Houston continues to make progress in improving safety for cyclists and pedestrians – slow and steady. For instance, the rebuild of Scott Street to install the light rail finally considered the safety of cyclists and pedestrians. Moreover, they added wider sidewalks along Shepherd. 

Yet, there are also proposals to widen freeways, adding more lanes that would impact businesses and homeowners. Despite experts showing that lanes fill as quickly as you add them, we regularly see these ideas from TxDOT consultants. 

The Deadliest Place to Drive: Near Negligent Drivers

At the end of the day, one of the most important factors in motor vehicle collisions is behavior. As drivers, we owe each other a duty of care while on the road. This extends to pedestrians and cyclists as well. 

Together, we have a chance to disprove the stereotype about Houstonians being aggressive drivers. It’s on all of us to keep our road rage at bay and follow traffic laws. Moreover, we have to stay vigilant on unpredictable roads. 

If you ever find yourself the victim of a negligent driver, call on the Houston car accident lawyers at AP Law Group. We are advocates that help injured Texas fight for a better future. When you work with our team, we commit ourselves to a thorough investigation. 

Let us investigate your claim, uncover the liablie parties, and hold them accountable. Schedule a free consultation today to see how our team can help you fight for your future. 

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