- Faith Boren
#EndTheStreakTX is a TXDOT campaign to end the terrible “streak” of deaths on Texas roadways. Every single day, someone dies on Texas roads, and typically it is more than one. For many years on average 10 persons died in Texas because of a car crash. Then in 2021, worse still, we saw a 15.22% increase: 2018 – 3,656 deaths; 2019 – 3,623 deaths; 2020 – 3,896 deaths; 2021 – 4,489.
No one wants to think about it. No one wants to imagine all these moms, dads, children, sisters-brothers, aunts, uncles, and grandparents who do not make it home to their families every day in Texas. But it is happening – every day.
Some recall November 7, 2000, as election day for George W. Bush vs. Al Gore. I still remember the news stories about the “hanging Chad” and recounts. Craziness! Like this election cycle, we had no resolution that day or for many days after. Where were you then? Who were you then?! Personally, it is a bit incredible to recall that time in my life and to contemplate everything that has changed and happened since.
This date, November 7, 2000, is also the last day there were no deaths on our Texas roads. Tragically, around 79,000 persons have died since then in fatal car crashes. Their families will never be the same.
What can we do about it? How do we #EndTheStreakTX? The primary reasons a car crash will result in fatality are speed, lack of seatbelt, driving intoxicated, while under the influence of drugs and alcohol and distractions. Let’s take this in to consider when we are driving and commit drive minding the S’s and without any of those Ds!
Seatbelts - Wearing seatbelts will dramatically reduce the chances a collision will result in death or serious injury, depending on the type of vehicle by 45-60%. Remember too, seatbelts work with airbags and are not a replacement for seatbelts! Seatbelts keep you from being ejected from the crash, which is almost always deadly. Make it a habit to confirm everyone in the vehicle is belted -especially your teenagers - before you begin driving. Not only will you help protect your passengers but also yourself. People become projectiles if not belted colliding with those in front of the vehicle with devastating consequences. Seat belt and car seat guidelines (txdot.gov)
Speed – According to TXDOT.gov, “Speed is the number one factor in roadway crashes in Texas, causing one out of every three traffic deaths. In 2021, more than 163,000 crashes in Texas involved speed, resulting in 6,493 serious injuries and 1,532 fatalities, up 8% from the previous year.” Speeding is a form of aggressive driving and puts the speeder and everyone around him in danger. However, even if you do not feel aggressive or even especially in a hurry, it is easy to get caught up in the flow of city traffic. If this is you, consider using your cruise control or, setting a speed governor to alert you when you are approaching the speed limit. It is also important to always consider the weather and special conditions like roadway construction. The posted speed limit is the point or level which we may not extend or pass under optimal conditions! Remember to take a slower pace when there is inclement weather and where construction work is in progress.
Drugs/Drunk – Driving impaired or under the influence of alcohol or drugs is incredibly dangerous and is still against the law in all 50 states! This has not changed. According to NHTSA national highway transportation administration, around 30% of all traffic crash fatalities in the United States involve impaired drivers (with BACs of .08 g/dl or higher). IDrunk Driving | Statistics and Resources | NHTSA If you know you are going to consume alcohol or any other substance that may impair your judgement and response time, be sure to make a plan that does not include driving. Your plan could include letting someone else drive who hasn’t consumed – a designated driver, an Uber/Lyft or a taxicab or spending the night where you are. If you know someone else has been drinking, do not let them drive! If you are the host of the party, you are especially responsible. Take their keys and help them arrange a ride. Consider purchasing a portable breathalyzer. There are now many inexpensive options available Amazon.com : Portable Breathalyzer. Pay attention your prescribed medication too. Your vehicle is heavy machinery and should not be operated under the influence of some medications, even if they are legal.
Distractions – Things that distract the driver can include food, drinks, grooming, other passengers, the radio and using technology while driving. All should be done prior to driving or avoided while driving. However, only one of these is illegal in Texas and has been said to be worse than driving under the influence. That is “driving while texting.” Texting and other similar activities on your mobile device like checking Facebook, reading email, etc. are too distracting and must be avoided at all costs while operating the vehicle. The issue is that texting or using this technology while driving engages your visual, manual, and cognitive powers (eyes, hands and mental) all of which should be focused on driving. Fatal crashes involving distractions are often especially violent impacts due to the obvious lack of attention and notice to the danger ahead that resulted in the collision. Text or drive, not both.
Drowsy – Sleeping is a basic human need, like breathing, eating, and drinking. Yet, whether due to health conditions or lifestyle choices, many Americans are fatigued, which has devastating effects on our health including fatal vehicle crashes. According to the CDC, 1 in 3 adults in the USA report not getting enough sleep and nearly 40% of adults report to falling asleep during the day without meaning to do so, at least once a month!
Some of the signs you are driving drowsy and need to pull over to rest include yawning or blinking frequently; difficulty remembering the past few miles driven; missing your exit; drifting from your lane; hitting a rumble strip on the side of the road. To prevent driving drowsy in the first place: get the recommended 8 hours of sleep every night and avoid driving during the peak sleepiness periods (between midnight and 6 am and late afternoon) when our body’s internal clock is accustomed to sleeping. If you are getting regular rest and still feel fatigued often, consult with your doctor as it could be a sign of a serious medical condition.
Finally, remember this is Texas, so drive friendly! To me, this means three things: 1) Maintain a safe and courteous following distance – no tailgating! 2) Use your turn signals to communicate your plans for lane changes. 3) When you are stuck in that bumper-to-bumper traffic, take turns merging and please do not block the intersections and private drive exits.
What else? Get Social! Share the meaning of #EndTheStreakTX with YOUR people, so we can stop the streak of hurting Texans. These deaths are preventable.
• Post pictures on social media with this downloadable sign displaying the hashtag #EndTheStreakTX. • Share personal stories on social media of loved ones who have been lost in a crash and use the hashtag #EndTheStreakTX. • Follow @txdot social media pages and share the content they post.