When drivers first learn about Houston’s car accident statistics, they might feel tempted to avoid its roads entirely! The number of car accidents that occur daily, never mind annually, is staggering by anyone’s estimate. When you consider Houston is home to 10 freeways, most with an average speed limit of 75 miles per hour, it’s clear why the city struggles with traffic safety.
If you or a loved one sustained injuries in a Houston car accident, reach out to an experienced attorney to determine your eligibility to pursue compensation for your losses. Below we take a deeper dive into Houston car accidents, their causes, and how victims can recover.
Houston Accident Statistics
On an average day, eight accidents occur every hour on the roadways of Houston. That amounts to more than 68,000 accidents on an annual basis. More than 20,000 of those crashes are said to have unknown injuries, which isn’t very comforting. What causes Houston to have so many more car accidents than other areas? Let’s take a look at some data to find out more.
Failure to Control Speed—Speeding
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), speeding remains the number one factor in more than 25% of fatal accidents on U.S. roadways. Texas is certainly no exception to this rule. Across Houston, there is a surprising lack of citations issued for speeding.
Most drivers on Houston roadways travel at an average of 80 miles per hour. Additionally, fewer speeding tickets are issued than in years past. This is a bad combination for innocent pedestrians, motorcycles, and bicyclists. Nonetheless, our roadways continue to be clogged by Houston’s infamous traffic, and despite signs that drivers should travel more slowly, they continue to drive too fast for road/traffic conditions.
Speeding results in more than 300 deaths annually on Houston roadways, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. More prudent driving could have prevented some, if not all, of these deaths. A Houston attorney with experience with insurance claims for speeding accident victims can likely help you recover compensation for your injuries, or help you file a wrongful death claim if you lost a loved one in one of these accidents.
Distracted Driving—Lack of Attention
As time goes by, our attention spans get shorter and shorter. In days past, the most distracting things in a vehicle on the roadway were the children bickering in the back seat. Today, most vehicles have a GPS, drivers carry cell phones, and some vehicles even have built-in television sets. No longer subjected to the whims of a radio DJ, motorists fumble with their AUX cords and their phone screens to queue up the perfect playlist.
Like nearly every state, Texas governs the use handheld devices, text messages, and other electronic devices while driving. However, Texas’s electronic device usage statute contains language that may allow more drivers to text and drive than you might think.
Specifically, the law reads:
An operator commits an offense if the operator uses a portable wireless communication device to read, write, or send an electronic message while operating a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is stopped. To be prosecuted, the behavior must be committed in the presence of or within the view of a peace officer or established by other evidence.
In effect, this means that until someone gets in an accident because they sent, read, or wrote a text message, the police can do little to stop the behavior. Naturally, once a driver has been in an accident, if there is reason to believe that the driver was distracted by cell phone usage, police may search the data on the driver’s phone to determine whether the driver was texting. But by that time, it’s too little too late. The accident has already happened and lives have already been changed.
This statute contains other concerning language as well, but the bottom line is that distracted driving is a serious issue on Houston roadways. Distracted driving puts everyone on the roadway, as well as pedestrians, at risk. Nearly 400 people die annually because of distracted driving across Texas, and there is little doubt that many of these accidents occur on Houston roadways.
Drunk Driving Despite Tough Laws
An estimated 25% of all fatalities on Texas roadways occur when alcohol and/or drugs impaired one of the drivers in the accident. Getting behind the wheel of a car when intoxicated is never a good idea. Unfortunately, many people do exactly that. Texas drunk driving accidents nearly always result in the police citing the intoxicated driver for DUI or DWI, which means serious penalties. These penalties, however, do little to prevent the more than 27,000 drivers who drive drunk annually.
Drunk driving accidents can result in serious injury. An impaired driver may struggle to react to changing conditions in time, and they are often breaking the speed limit. They drift and swerve, failing to stay in their own lane, often because they cannot easily determine where their lane is due to blurry vision.
Due to the various complexities of drunk driving accidents, victims should always seek the guidance of a drunk driving accident lawyer. In some cases, you may qualify to file an additional claim against the establishment that served the driver alcohol under the Dram Shop Law. This is not always an option, but depending on various circumstances, it may be possible. Speak with your attorney about your options before making any decisions.
Failure to Yield Right of Way
Most drivers are aware that pedestrians have the right of way under Texas statutes, but some think that those yield signs coming off the freeway ramps are merely suggestions. Others are completely unaware of what rules apply at a four-way stop and what actions to take when approaching an intersection. This leads to devastating consequences for other drivers at the intersection, those who know the rules, and those who are on the road legally. More than 90,000 accidents occur because a driver failed to properly yield.
Texas law dictates the state’s right of way policies. The law includes that should a driver fail to stop at a yield sign, resulting in an accident, then “the collision is prima facie evidence that the operator failed to yield the right-of-way.”
Some drivers who are victims of failure to yield accidents may believe this means they will face fewer problems filing an insurance claim and getting a reasonable settlement from an insurance company, but do not expect this to happen if you are a victim of a failure to yield accident. Remember, the insurance company will go out of its way to prevent you from recovering the full amount of your out-of-pocket costs for your injuries and lost time from work.
Improper Lane Change and Out-of-Lane Accidents
Many people are shocked to learn nearly 50,000 accidents occur in Texas because of either an improper lane change or a driver who did not stay in their own lane. Unfortunately, these types of accidents are common, and they pose some unique risks to other drivers.
If drivers fail to stay in their own lanes or fail to notice another car or truck in their path when trying to change lanes, these drivers can cause another vehicle to swerve and cause an accident. In some cases, this can lead to multiple cars crashing. Other times, a car may force a truck to make a sudden maneuver, which can cause life-altering injuries. You may not think about it much, but three people lose their lives every two days on Houston roadways in truck accidents.
Most of us understand safe lane changes. We know that we must avoid tailgating, use our signal lights, check our blind spots, and allow enough distance from other drivers to make sure we all have room to change lanes safely. However, it only takes one driver who is speeding, under the influence, or distracted to shift out of the proper lane and create chaos, which can lead to serious accidents.
Tailgating: Always an Issue During Rush Hour Traffic
When the workday is over, we want to get home to our families ASAP. With more than two million residents of Houston, and knowing that more than 75 percent of those who work in Houston drive to work, chances are you have seen at least one driver tailgating at some time or another.
Texas law says: “maintain an assured clear distance between the two vehicles so that, considering the speed of the vehicles, traffic, and the conditions of the highway, the operator can safely stop without colliding with the preceding vehicle or veering into another vehicle, object, or person on or near the highway.”
This verbiage is rather vague because most of us do not know how long it takes to safely stop a vehicle. Here’s what we do know: The weight of the vehicle affects stopping distance, but speed plays the primary role. When you consider the average driver on a Houston freeway is traveling 80 miles per hour, that driver needs 439 feet to stop, which is the equivalent of 29 car lengths. Most of us never leave this much space between ourselves and the cars in front of us. During rush hour, leaving this much space would likely prove impossible!
Traffic Signals—Ignoring the Lights
We all know a green light means we can safely proceed, and a red light means we should come to a complete stop. However, some drivers view a yellow light as a challenge to get through an intersection before the light changes to red. This can have devastating consequences, particularly if a driver who anticipates a green light proceeds through the intersection, and a sideswipe collision or T-bone accident happens.
Remember, yellow lights are a warning sign that you should slow down and approach with caution. If you slow down and stop at an intersection with a yellow light, the drivers behind you should, too. If they follow too closely and fail to stop in time, they can strike your car from the rear. Make no mistake about it, rear-end accidents are serious and can result in significant injuries.
Poorly Executed Evasive Action
Some driver’s reflexes are either slower than they think, or the drivers are just not paying as close attention as they should when they try to get out of someone’s way. Perhaps they see another driver veering out of a nearby lane, an animal in the roadway, or a tire tread that just came flying off a truck. Instinctively, drivers may head for another lane and miss the fact that there is a car in that lane without sufficient separation to allow them to get into the lane safely.
Shockingly, more than 20,000 accidents in Texas result from faulty evasive actions. The outcome of these accidents can prove devastating and have a real impact on your life and the life of your family. If you were involved in an accident where a driver sideswiped you while attempting to get out of the way of another hazard, you need to speak with a car accident attorney today. These cases may prove complicated, and they can present numerous challenges to victims who file insurance claims. A Houston car accident lawyer can steer you in the right direction—no pun intended—and help you determine liability!
Insurance Claims Following an Accident in Houston
Many drivers believe that if the police cite a driver at the scene of an accident for wrongdoing—whether it is for DUI or failure to yield—that this will make the claims process easier. Do not think this for a moment! Remember, insurance companies are not in business to protect victims. Rather, they are in business to make money. Too often we hear about insurance companies that value their bottom lines over the well-being of accident victims. Keep in mind criminal matters will proceed separately from your car insurance claim, which is considered a civil matter. Even if the other driver is found guilty of a crime, the insurance adjusters might still try to dispute fault.
Houston is a great place to live and work. Unfortunately, Houston has some of the deadliest roadways in the state as well. Contact a Houston car accident lawyer today if you suffered an injury in any Houston auto accident or lost a loved one on Houston’s roadways. Your initial consultation is free and without obligation; you have nothing to lose by calling to explore your rights and legal options.
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.