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Texas Fastest Growing State in the Country: Why That’s Bad
May 18, 2023

Texas Fastest Growing State in the Country: Why That’s Bad

Texas is big—and it’s getting bigger. From a population standpoint, no other state has gained more residents than Texas over the last two decades. As the state’s population grows, so does traffic congestion. More cars on the road can lead to an increase in traffic accidents, which in turn causes more roadway injuries and fatalities. It’s a vicious cycle that shows no signs of slowing down as Texas’ population is expected to double in the coming decades.

How Has Texas’ Population Growth Impacted Traffic Safety?

In 2022, Texas’ population passed the 30 million mark. Texas is now the second-most populous U.S. state and the nation’s fastest-growing state. From 2000 to 2022, Texas added more than 9 million residents, an increase of 43%. State demographers estimate that Texas’ population could reach 54 million by 2050.

Rapid population growth puts a strain on infrastructure. With growth comes more vehicles and more vehicle miles traveled (VMT). Growth-induced traffic gridlock in Texas is getting worse every year.

More registered vehicles driving more miles is not a problem in and of itself. The broader issue is that Texas infrastructure has not kept pace with population and vehicle growth. While registered vehicles in the state are up 172% in 40 years, highway capacity is up only 19% in the same period.

TTI estimates that traffic congestion costs Texans around $500 – $1,500 per year in lost time and wasted fuel. That adds up to over $14 billion a year.

But there could be another cost to traffic congestion in the form of roadway injuries and deaths. Lending strength to this argument, a 2022 report about the infrastructure consequences of Texas exurban growth notes that, “A critical aspect of physical infrastructure affected by exurb growth is transportation and safety. Texas has seen an increase in car accidents, including fatal collisions, within the past two years.”

Every day, ten people die on Texas roads, 50 suffer incapacitating injuries, and thousands suffer more minor injuries. The annual costs of these Texas car accidents are more than $162 billion.

What Is Causing the Increase in Traffic Accidents in Texas?

More than 4,480 people were killed on Texas roads in 2021, making it the second deadliest driving year in state history.

From 2014 to 2021, the total number of crashes statewide increased from 477,000 to 552,000. Over the same period, the state’s population grew from around 26 million to 29 million.

It’s probably not a coincidence that, as Texas adds more people, it sees more car crashes. The relationship between Texas growth and traffic fatalities is somewhat complicated. But common sense tells us Texas’ population boom is having an effect on traffic safety.

Scientific review of car accident statistics from multiple countries tells us the same thing. For example, a 2019 review published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health concluded that there is generally an increase in accidents with increasing levels of congestion and traffic volume.

It isn’t simply the number of cars on the roads that affects traffic accident rates. Environmental and human factors also play a role in car accidents. In particular, behaviors like speeding, drunk driving, and texting and driving are major crash contributors.

Research indicates that the vast majority of traffic crashes are caused by human error. Having more drivers on the road only adds to the total number of people driving unsafely. Congested roads reduce the margin for driver error and result in greater crash potential.

How Do Traffic Accident Rates in Texas Compare to Other States?

From 2019 to 2021, Texas fatal car accidents rose from 3,619 to 3,874 to 4,489. Also in 2021, the Texas roadway fatality rate increased 4.17% to 1.56 deaths per 100 million VMT.

Only California recorded more traffic fatalities in 2019 and 2020 than Texas. This makes sense, though, when you consider these are the two most populous states.

To compare overall fatality rates between states, it is necessary to use a relative measure, such as traffic deaths per 100 million VMT or per 100,000 state residents. Using these measures, Texas has a traffic death rate higher than the national average, but the same or lower than some other states. However, both in terms of motor vehicle deaths per 100,000 people and 1 million VMT, Texas has seen a rise in its traffic death rate.

Another way to compare car accidents by state is to look at the number of drivers with an at-fault accident on their record. According to research provided by Insurify, Texas again ranks somewhere in the middle of the pack.

What Are the Most Dangerous Roads and Highways in Texas?

MoneyGeek compiled a list of the deadliest roads in Texas and put I-10 from Exit 855A to 849 in Beaumont in the number one spot. Stretches of road in Fort Worth, Houston, Dallas, and Houston also made the list. Speeding, drunk driving, and distracted driving contributed to around two-thirds of fatal crashes in Texas, MoneyGeek also found.

Fatal accidents are more likely to occur on Texas highways and interstates than on other types or roads. But city streets are getting more dangerous. While they may seem safer than larger roadways due to lower speeds and frequent traffic controls, city streets require situational awareness, as drivers are more likely to encounter pedestrians, cyclists, and intersections.

Within cities, intersections are accident hotspots. Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio have some notoriously dangerous intersections that are responsible for a disproportionate number of accidents.

Returning to the question of how population growth is affecting Texas roads and highways, TTI compiles an annual ranking of the state’s most congested roadways. Although TTI analyzes congestion through the lens of delays, and not accidents, backed up traffic can contribute to multi-car accidents, such as the infamous 133-car pileup that occurred during winter 2021 on I-35W in Fort Worth.

In 2021, the most congested stretch of road in Teas was Houston’s West Loop, followed by the Woodall Rodgers Freeway in Dallas, Interstate Highway 35 in Austin, and Houston’s Eastex and Southwest Freeways. These routes can be particularly dangerous for passenger car occupants because they are major routes for large trucks.

What Can Be Done To Reduce The Number of Car Accidents in Texas?

Given the link between Texas’ population increase and car accidents, infrastructure improvements could help to improve road safety. The State of Texas acknowledges the need for bigger and better transportation infrastructure. Recently, the government announced a 10-year, $83 billion commitment to new state roadway projects.

Public safety initiatives are also underway to reduce car accidents and traffic deaths. The Texas Department of Transportation aims to end deaths on Texas roads by 2050. To achieve this ambitious goal, TxDOT is focused on campaigns that encourage drivers to obey the speed limit, avoid texting and other distractions, never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and exercise caution when driving in work zones.

How Can an Accident Attorney Help Recover Damages If You’re Involved in a Texas Car Crash?

The impact of Texas’ population growth on traffic accidents cannot be ignored. Texans who spend any amount of time behind the wheel, especially in the heavy growth cities of Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio, know that our roads are becoming increasingly crowded and dangerous. Infrastructure is struggling to keep up with population growth, and drivers are becoming more reckless.

But even with more congested roads, accidents are by no means inevitable. They happen for very specific reasons, like drug and alcohol use, speed, and distractions.

A Texan is injured in a car crash every 2 minutes. If you’re unfortunate enough to get hurt behind the wheel, you may be unsure of how the claims process works. The insurance company might be offering a settlement that seems too low, denying your claim outright, or saying you caused the crash.

An experienced car accident attorney can answer your questions and make sure you’re treated fairly. They can investigate the accident, gather information about what happened, consult with experts, build a strong case, and negotiate with the insurer. If the insurance company still won’t budge, an attorney can file a lawsuit.

There are many car accident lawyers in Texas, but there’s only one Texas Hammer. Jim Adler & Associates has more than fifty years of experience. We’ve helped thousands of Texans get the help they need after a serious injury. We can help you, too. Call or contact us to schedule a free consultation with our car accident attorneys in HoustonDallasSan Antonio or Channelview.

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