By Angie Schmitt, January 8, 2016
This calendar is published by the Texas Department of Transportation
as part of its traffic safety efforts. It shows how many fatal
collisions and traffic deaths happened every day of the year. On
average, someone is killed every two and a half hours on Texas streets,
and someone is injured every two minutes, according to TxDOT [PDF].
Texas hasn’t had a day without a traffic fatality in more than 15
years. In that time, more than 50,000 people have been killed on Texas
roads — an absolutely staggering number. By comparison, California, with
a population 44 percent larger, has nearly 300 fewer traffic deaths per year. (The safest state, Massachusetts, has a per capita traffic fatality rate nearly 60 percent lower than Texas’s.)
State officials in Texas attribute the problem to
drunk driving and failure to use seat belts — not any shortcoming in
their own work. Just one day without a traffic fatality is the agency’s
depressingly unambitious goal: #EndTheStreak, they call it.
TxDOT’s strategy seems to consist mainly of using Twitter and PSAs to reach drivers.
What if, instead of #EndTheStreak, Texas state transportation
officials got serious about ending traffic fatalities altogether? What
if they launched a statewide Vision Zero campaign?
A concerted effort to reduce traffic deaths would have to involve
solutions much more substantial than PSAs. It would require an entire
rethinking of the state’s transportation policies.
A growing number of American cities are adopting Vision Zero goals
and laying out plans to fix their dangerously designed streets — making
more room for walking and biking while taming speeding traffic. The idea
is gaining momentum in Texas cities too.
TxDOT’s #EndTheStreak campaign clearly isn’t getting the job done.
Statewide traffic deaths increased 3.7 percent in 2014 compared to the
year before [PDF]. Without a fundamental paradigm shift, there’s no reason to expect this year’s calendar will be any different.