Despite fewer drivers on the road, a study by the National Safety Council shows that through the first three months of 2020, Texas experienced a 6% increase in the number of traffic-related deaths. This recent increase of traffic fatalities in Texas stands juxtaposed to the historical trend of decreasing motor vehicle traffic fatalities.
When looking at the contributing factors leading to car accidents published by the Texas Department of Transportation, it becomes clear that the decrease in traffic does not necessarily negate the cause of fatal accidents. In compiling the data provided to the state through the Texas Peace Office Crash Report, the Texas Department of Transportation has identified the following contributing factors as the leading causes of fatal crashes in Texas:
- Failed to Control Speed/Unsafe Speed
- Failed to Yield Right of Way to Pedestrian
- Failed to Drive in Single Lane
- Under the Influence of Alcohol
- Driver Inattention
These unsafe conditions pose a risk to all Texans, irrespective of the number of vehicles on the roadways.
Failure to Control Speed
When failure to control speed is cited by a police officer as a contributing factor for a car accident, it is often used as a “catch all”. As codified in the Texas Transportation Code, all Texas drivers must not “drive at a speed grater than is reasonable and prudent under the circumstances then existing.” Simply stated, this law requires everybody to adjust and adapt their speed to the then-current traffic and weather conditions.
A failure to control speed is also similar to traveling at unsafe speeds. Both of these concepts are fact specific inquiries. For example, if during a storm, a driver is driving 10-miles-per-hour under the speed limit, but rear-ends a stopped car at a red-light, that driver may still be negligently operating their car by failing to control their speed or failing to travel at a safe speed, given the then-current conditions.
Failure to Yield Right of Way to Pedestrian
When a car hits a pedestrian, the injuries are significant. Under Texas law, all vehicles are required to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians. Irrespective as to whether the intersection in question is marked or unmarked, it is important to always exercise caution in areas where pedestrians may be present, and follow Texas Transportation Code guidelines in this regard.
Again, drivers must operate their vehicles at a safe speed given the then-current conditions. If you are operating a vehicle at the posted speed limit, but are doing so in an area where there are a lot of pedestrians, that still may be negligent.
Failure to Drive in Single Lane
When driving your car on the road, you are required to only drive in a single lane. That is, you cannot swerve in-and-out of your lane. When drivers fail to abide by this traffic law, accidents can happen, including side-swipe accidents or being forced off the road.
Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol
It goes without saying – it is unsafe to operate a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Doing so not only puts you at risk, it also puts others who share the road at risk. Amid the Coronavirus pandemic, Americans have been drinking more, with alcohol sales up by 55% in some areas. Additionally, Texas Governor Greg Abbott temporarily waived certain regulations, thereby allowing restaurants to deliver alcohol. As alcohol sales increase, and lock-down measures begin to relax, certain Texas cities have seen a spike in DWI numbers, and with increased DWI charges, one can expect an increase in alcohol related traffic accidents and deaths.
As our society gets “smarter”, it has, in some ways, become more dangerous—especially while driving. Cell phone and in-car technology use while driving are two major examples of driver inattention or distracted driving. While sending a text or changing the radio may only take a second or two, roadway and traffic conditions can change in the blink of an eye. These distractions, according to the Texas Department of Insurance, cause almost 3,500 deaths in the United States each year.
The contributing factors discussed in this post rarely happen alone. That is, there are often more than one contributing factor which leads to a car accident. Nevertheless, the root cause is the same: Negligence. When somebody does something they shouldn’t have, or failed to do something they should have, they were negligent. On the road, this negligence often results in a car accident, leaving those involved injured.
Contact us if you need help
After an accident, it is important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney to review your specific situation and help guide you through the claims process. Insurance companies will try to under pay your claim or even improperly deny it. That is why it is important to have an advocate in your corner. The experienced lawyers at the Ted Smith Law Group are familiar with the struggles associated with recovering after a car accident, and are equipped to help you fight the insurance companies to ensure you get the help you need.
A native of Fort Hood, Texas, Raymond L. Panneton has built a national practice with deep Texas roots. Raymond is the Managing Attorney of the Ted Smith Law Group. He focuses on Personal Injury and Business Law.
For more information about Raymond, please read his full biography here