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Texas Population Growth and Traffic Safety: A Deep Dive
May 18, 2023

Texas Population Growth and Traffic Safety: A Deep Dive

by Jim Adler

Texas is vast—and it’s expanding rapidly. From a population standpoint, no other state has witnessed more growth than Texas over the last two decades. As the state’s population swells, so does traffic congestion. This rise in vehicles on the road has led to an increase in traffic accidents, which subsequently results in more roadway injuries and fatalities. It’s a concerning cycle that shows no signs of slowing down, especially with Texas’ population projected to double in the upcoming decades.

How Has Texas’ Population Growth Impacted Traffic Safety?

In 2022, Texas’ population passed the 30 million mark, making it the second-most populous U.S. state and the nation’s fastest-growing. From 2000 to 2022, Texas added over 9 million residents, marking an increase of 43%. State demographers predict that, given the current impact of population growth on Texas roads, the state’s population could soar to 54 million by 2050.

This rapid population surge strains the infrastructure. With growth comes more vehicles and an increase in vehicle miles traveled (VMT). The Texas traffic accident statistics indicate that growth-induced traffic gridlock is worsening annually.

The surge in registered vehicles and miles traveled isn’t problematic on its own. The broader issue is that Texas infrastructure hasn’t kept pace with population and vehicle growth. While the number of registered vehicles in the state has increased by 172% in 40 years, highway capacity has only grown by 19% in the same timeframe.

TTI estimates that traffic congestion costs Texans between $500 – $1,500 annually in lost time and wasted fuel, amounting to over $14 billion a year.

However, there’s another potential cost to traffic congestion: roadway injuries and deaths. Reinforcing this concern, a 2022 report on the infrastructure consequences of Texas exurban growth highlighted that “A critical aspect of physical infrastructure affected by exurb growth is transportation and safety. Texas car accident rates have seen a spike, including fatal collisions, in the recent two years.”

Every day, ten individuals lose their lives on Texas roads, 50 sustain severe injuries, and thousands experience minor injuries. The annual costs of these Texas car accidents surpass $162 billion.

What’s Causing the Increase in Traffic Accidents in Texas?

Over 4,480 fatalities occurred on Texas roads in 2021, marking it the second deadliest driving year in the state’s history.

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

It’s likely not coincidental that as Texas adds more residents, it witnesses more car crashes. The relationship between Texas growth and traffic fatalities is intricate. However, it’s evident that Texas’ population boom affects traffic safety.

Scientific reviews of car accident statistics from various countries echo this sentiment. For instance, a 2019 study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health concluded that accidents generally increase with rising congestion and traffic volume.

It’s not just the sheer number of vehicles on the roads that influence Texas car accident rates. Environmental and human factors also play a pivotal role in car accidents. Speeding, drunk driving, and texting while driving are significant contributors to crashes.

Research indicates that the vast majority of traffic accidents result from human error. More drivers on the road heighten the total number of unsafe drivers. Congested roads reduce the margin for driver error, leading to a higher crash potential.

How Do Texas Traffic Accident Rates Compare to Other States?

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

Only California recorded more traffic fatalities in 2019 and 2020 than Texas. This correlation is logical, given that these are the two most populous states.

To compare overall fatality rates between states, one must use relative measures, such as traffic deaths per 100 million VMT or per 100,000 state residents. Using these metrics, Texas has a traffic death rate higher than the national average but comparable or even lower than some other states. However, in terms of motor vehicle deaths per 100,000 individuals and 1 million VMT, Texas has witnessed a rise in its traffic death rate.

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

What Are the Most Dangerous Roads and Highways in Texas?

MoneyGeek compiled a list of the deadliest roads in Texas, placing I-10 from Exit 855A to 849 in Beaumont at the top. Sections of road in Fort Worth, Houston, Dallas, and Houston also featured on the list. Speeding, drunk driving, and distracted driving contributed to approximately two-thirds of fatal crashes in Texas, as per MoneyGeek’s findings.

Fatal accidents are more likely on Texas highways and interstates than on other road types. However, city streets are becoming increasingly perilous. While they might seem safer due to lower speeds and frequent traffic controls, city streets demand heightened situational awareness. Drivers are more likely to encounter pedestrians, cyclists, and intersections in urban areas.

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

Addressing the question of how population growth impacts Texas roads and highways, TTI releases an annual ranking of the state’s most congested roadways. While TTI’s focus is on delays and not accidents, traffic congestion can lead to multi-car accidents, like the infamous 133-car pileup in winter 2021 on I-35W in Fort Worth.

In 2021, the most congested road in Texas 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 pose significant risks for passenger car occupants since they are primary routes for large trucks.

What Measures Can Reduce Car Accidents in Texas?

Considering the link between Texas’ population surge and car accidents, infrastructure enhancements could bolster road safety. Texas acknowledges the need for expansive and improved transportation infrastructure. Recently, the government pledged a 10-year, $83 billion commitment to new state roadway projects.

Public safety initiatives aim to decrease car accidents and traffic fatalities. The Texas Department of Transportation aspires to eradicate deaths on Texas roads by 2050. To achieve this ambitious target, TxDOT emphasizes campaigns urging drivers to obey speed limits, avoid distractions, refrain from driving under the influence, and exercise caution in work zones.

How Can an Accident Attorney Assist in Recovering Damages After a Texas Car Crash?

The repercussions of Texas’ population growth on traffic accidents are undeniable. Texans, especially those in rapidly growing cities like Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio, recognize that our roads are becoming increasingly congested and perilous. Infrastructure struggles to keep pace with population growth, and drivers are becoming more reckless.

However, even with busier roads, accidents aren’t inevitable. They occur due to specific reasons, such as drug and alcohol use, speeding, and distractions.

A Texan suffers injuries in a car crash every 2 minutes. If you find yourself in such an unfortunate situation, you might be uncertain about the claims process. The insurance company might offer a seemingly low settlement, deny your claim, or allege you caused the crash.

A seasoned car accident attorney can address your concerns and ensure fair treatment. They can probe the accident, gather pertinent information, consult experts, build a robust case, and negotiate with the insurer. If the insurance firm remains unyielding, an attorney can initiate a lawsuit.

There are numerous car accident lawyers in Texas, but only one stands out as the Texas Hammer. Jim Adler & Associates boasts over fifty years of experience. We’ve assisted thousands of Texans post-serious injuries. We’re here to help you too. Reach out to schedule a complimentary consultation with our car accident attorneys in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, or Channelview.

About Jim Adler

Jim Adler, also known as The Texas Hammer®, is an American trial attorney and owner of Jim Adler & Associates. He has been practicing law in Texas in the area of personal injury for 54 years.

Jim Adler graduated from the University of Texas School of Law where he received his Juris Doctor degree (J.D.) in 1967.

Jim Adler is a member of the State Bar of Texas, American Bar Association (ABA) and American Trial Lawyers Association. He is licensed to practice in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and U.S. District Courts of Texas. Read More

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