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August 24, 2010

 

Safer Roads Contribute to Significant Drop in Highway Fatalities

AUSTIN - Motorists across Texas are safer on today’s highways for many reasons—more people wearing seat belts and public campaigns that discourage drinking and driving—but there’s no doubt that safer highways have also contributed to the significant decline in fatalities across Texas.

Last year, there were 388 fewer fatalities on Texas highways, an 11 percent decrease from the previous year.

"This is great news for Texans, and evidence that the resources we’ve put into safety projects across the state are paying dividends in lives saved," Gov. Perry said. "Every life saved on our highways is another birthday for someone, another holiday season, and another family spared the pain of losing a loved one too soon."

In the last five years, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has dedicated $1.2 billion toward highway projects that have the greatest potential for reducing traffic crashes. The money comes from the Texas Safety Bond Program, which comprises 20 percent of the funds available from Proposition 14 highway bonding authority, approved by Texas voters in 2003.

Proposition 14 revenue bonds are secured and repaid by the State Highway Fund, including motor fuels taxes and vehicle registration fees. The results of this targeted investment in safe highway design are making a difference in annual crash statistics that demonstrate a decline in fatalities, both in Texas and nationwide.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) attributes the 2009 decline to a number of factors -seat belt usage, drunk driving and distracted driving public safety campaigns, safer vehicles, motorists driving less, and safer roads.

In a recent report, the Texas Transportation Institute’s (TTI) Center for Transportation Safety estimated that the money spent on safety improvements in the last few years could save as many as 1,800 lives and prevent 21,000 injuries in the next 20 years.

It comes down to safer roads and safer drivers, said Deirdre Delisi, Texas Transportation Commission Chair.

"Texas has been fortunate enough to have the money for highway safety improvements," she noted. "Part of the requirement for the Proposition 14 bonds was that we apply a portion of the funding to safety projects. Our legislative partners asked us to do this - we did and the result has been phenomenal."

Delisi added that safer drivers have also contributed to the decline in crashes and fatalities.

"TxDOT and its law enforcement partners across the state conduct a variety of outreach campaigns encouraging motorists to drive safer. The agency's annual Click it or Ticket and the Drink, Drive, Go to Jail campaigns are examples of educational programs designed to change driver behavior," she said.

The Click It or Ticket campaign has shown its success with a recent new record of 93.8 percent statewide seat belt usage for 2010.

But, transportation officials know for certain that safer roads have played a significant part in reducing fatalities. Widening narrow two-lane roads, adding left turn lanes and installing concrete and cable barrier in divided highway medians are a few of the improvements that make it safer to travel Texas highways.

Efforts are paying off. On Interstate 10 in the San Antonio District, cable barrier was installed on a 17.2-mile section of highway. This area had a history of crossover collisions with seven fatalities in the three years before installation. Since the cable barrier has been in place, the district has not received any reports of fatal crossover collisions.

By the time all the safety bond projects are completed, TxDOT will have widened nearly 2,200 miles of narrow two-lane roads, added 272 left turn lanes, built 38 highway interchanges, and installed 1,030 miles of concrete and cable barrier.

The Texas Department of Transportation

TxDOT is responsible for maintaining over 80,000 miles of road and for supporting aviation, rail and public transportation across the state. TxDOT and its more than 12,000 employees strive to empower local leaders to solve local transportation problems, and to use new financial tools, including tolling and public-private partnerships, to reduce congestion and pave the way for future economic growth while enhancing safety, improving air quality and increasing the value of the state’s transportation assets. Find out more at www.txdot.gov.