Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) Senior Research Engineer Robert Wunderlich shared road safety insights with state lawmakers on February 26 during a meeting of Texas’ Senate Transportation Committee. The panel heard Wunderlich’s testimony in the course of pursuing its goal to study crash causes and make recommendations to improve roadway safety.
“Texas traffic crashes are associated with three high-risk behaviors, two high-risk crash types and three high-risk roadway user groups,” Wunderlich told the committee members. “These categories overlap, and some crashes fall into more than one of these categories.”
Wunderlich, also the director of TTI’s Center for Transportation Safety, told panel members that the total statewide fatality count has topped 3,500 every year since 2014.
Wunderlich cited several key crash statistics reflecting trends from 2010 to 2019:
- Impaired driving remains a persistent problem, although associated deaths and serious injuries have declined.
- Crash deaths related to distracted driving have decreased each year since 2015, and the percentage of total crash fatalities associated with distraction has declined from 15 percent to 10 percent since 2010.
- Overall use of cell phones while driving has declined since 2013, but texting frequency has risen at the same time talking on the phone has become less common.
- Driving unsafe for conditions is the predominant factor in rural speed-related crashes, whereas speeding over the limit make up the majority of Urban speed-related crashes.
- Serious injury crashes at intersections declined after peaking mid-decade, while the number of fatal intersection crashes remained relatively flat over those years.
- Pedestrians, drivers aged 16 to 24, and drivers over age 65 remain the highest-risk groups. Pedestrian deaths have risen by 83 percent since 2010, and serious injuries are up by 45 percent.
Wunderlich also outlined the range of initiatives under way at TTI to improve safety conditions for all of the high-risk groups.
Agency researchers work to find new and innovative ways to analyze crash data related to vehicle types and human behaviors, Wunderlich noted, with the purpose of identifying effective countermeasures to reduce crash frequency and prevent crash injuries and deaths.
Committee Chairman Robert Nichols recognized TTI for its decades-long contributions to improving roadway safety statewide.
“There’s no telling how many lives have been saved by the recommendations you have made that have been implemented by TxDOT,” the chairman said.