Texas has a problem. The state leads the entire country in traffic deaths, and the numbers are staggering. One person has died every day on Texas roads since the year 2000. In 2017 alone, nearly 4,000 people died on Texas roads, and that was a year when fatalities around the state actually dropped. The numbers have reached so high that legislators have proposed several bills hoping to stop, or at least reduce, the number of traffic deaths, and make the roads safer for all Texans.
“There is no doubt that the numbers are confounding,” says Matthew Aulsbrook of Aulsbrook Law Firm. “They are not surprising when you look at the lack of laws we have for our drivers, though. Drivers can do anything with a phone except text, and pedestrians have very little rights when they are on the roads. These are laws that must change.”
Legislators are working on at least some of those laws. House Bill 1289 sets out a proposal that would force drivers to stop and yield when pedestrians are legally in a crosswalk. Currently, they only have to yield, and some drivers are interpreting that to mean that they are not required to stop for those on foot. Unfortunately, the committee has not yet heard the bill as it is stalled in the Legislature.
Another bill, Senate Bill 43, addresses the problem of using handheld devices while behind the wheel. Currently, Texans are only prohibited from texting while driving. They can still use GPS, select music through their app of choice, and even browse the Web. None of these are considered a violation of the law, even though they are clearly forms of distracted driving. This is another bill that has been stalled before even getting a committee hearing in the Senate, the first move in making it law.
Other measures being discussed are lowering the speed limits to 25 miles per hour from 30 when there is no posted speed limit. House Bill 4243, on the other hand, looks to remove the word “accident” from the Texas Transportation Code and replace it with the word “crash.” The idea behind this bill is that accidents are not preventable, but many of the car crashes on Texas roads are.
Whether or not lawmakers will make a move on any of these laws is not yet clear, as so many are currently stalled in the Legislature. It is evident though, that something needs to change in Texas. The sooner that happens, the more lives will be saved.