Severe and fatal traffic accidents occur in Houston and throughout Texas for various reasons. However, almost all traffic collisions are preventable, and some specific driver behaviors cause more crashes than others. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) warns that speeding remains the leading cause of fatal collisions each year. The same trend holds in Houston and throughout Texas.
Speeding constitutes the most common cause of fatal and non-fatal traffic collisions in Houston, Harris County, and Texas. Everyone knows the dangers of speeding, but people still make poor choices when behind the wheel, putting others at risk for accidents, injuries, and even death.
If you have suffered injuries in a speeding-related accident in Houston or Harris County, Texas law permits you to take legal action against the irresponsible driver who caused you harm. It’s in your best interest to contact an experienced attorney who can help you recover damages. Until you have the chance to consult with a lawyer, we offer the following broad overview of speeding-related traffic collisions in Houston.
Below we take a closer look into the dangers of speeding, why some drivers choose not to slow down and drive safely, Texas laws and penalties for speeding, and common severe injuries associated with speeding-related crashes.
What Makes Speeding Dangerous?
If you paid attention in grade school, you know from science class that force times mass equals acceleration (F=ma). Basically, this means that the heavier an object or the faster it goes will lead to a far more forceful impact when it crashes into something. High speeds lead to treacherous accidents. People involved in a traffic accident with a semi-truck speeding on one of Houston’s many highways face a serious risk of injury. These constitute the most forceful collisions and often lead to fatal injuries.
More than 100,000 speed-related crashes occur on Texas roads each year, with close to 2,000 occurring in Harris County and the Greater Houston areas. Speeding has serious consequences beyond the death and destruction that it can cause.
The NHTSA warns of the consequences of speeding, which include:
Losing Control of a Vehicle
Reckless drivers who want to show off how fast they can drive risk losing control of their vehicles. Excess speed makes it difficult, sometimes impossible, for a driver to react quickly to traffic or a road hazard. Additionally, speeding around corners and curves like a NASCAR driver also makes it difficult to control a vehicle. In any of these situations, drivers risk causing a serious or fatal collision.
Safety Features Don’t Work
Auto manufacturers spend ample resources designing safety features on vehicles that prevent or reduce injuries when a car crash occurs. Manufacturers use crash dummies to test their vehicles, crashing them into a brick wall at various speeds to see the results. Research overwhelmingly shows that speeding reduces the effectiveness of seat belts and airbags, making it more likely for a driver or occupant to suffer serious or fatal injuries when a collision occurs.
Not Enough Time to Stop
Total stopping distance in traffic has three components: perception distance, reaction time, and braking distance. If you only consider braking distance, the time it takes for a vehicle to stop from the moment the driver hits the brake pedal, it takes the average car almost one football field to come to a complete stop if traveling 65 miles per hour. A loaded semi at the same speed needs at least 200 additional feet to come to a complete stop. These distances increase as speed increases. Speeders might see a road hazard or traffic jam ahead on one of Houston’s main highways, but this won’t matter if the drivers haven’t allowed enough distance and time to avoid an accident.
Drains Bank Accounts
Speeding can prove particularly expensive if it causes an accident or results in prosecution. Choosing to drive slowly may save you money. As discussed above, speeding leads to more severe collisions. Increased severity comes with more property damage, more medical expenses, and longer times away from work to recover from injuries. Accidents can prove expensive no matter the circumstances, and these costs only increase due to speeding. Even when speeders carry required auto insurance and only need to pay a deductible, they face increased premiums if they cause an accident.
Consumes Large Amounts of Gas
Whether the economic or environmental impact matters most to someone, drivers still consume massive amounts of fuel when speeding. Increased fuel consumption not only costs more to operate a vehicle but also leaves a greater carbon footprint. Regardless of the reason, consuming more gas while speeding can prove costly.
What Motivates Speeding Drivers?
The NHTSA has studied extensively the reasons people speed. Learning about motivations for speeding helps policymakers understand how they can make roads safer. The NHTSA cannot pinpoint the exact causes of speeding, but they have identified that some situations often correlate with speeding. These motivating factors include:
Slowed and stopped traffic constitutes one of the most common factors that motivate people to speed. Speeding includes more than just driving over the speed limit. Sometimes, driving too fast for conditions may qualify as speeding, even if driving under the posted speed limit. In heavy traffic, speeders may try to weave in and out of traffic. In other cases, drivers might get slowed down and then put their accelerator to the floor once they get through the slow-down. Houston rush hours involve notorious traffic congestion. The worst area for heavy traffic typically occurs between US-59 and I-10, by the Galleria Mall.
Everyone has a busy life, and kids add more responsibility to the mix, whether single or partnered up. Regardless of someone’s individual circumstances, he or she may choose to speed for a variety of reasons. Some drivers may choose to speed because they overslept or missed an exit. Some drivers may just be perpetually late for everything and need to invest in an alarm clock.
Running late for an appointment, obligation, business meeting, or some other event motivates some to speed to make up time. Speeders are often headed to work, dropping off kids, driving to a concert, going to a lunch meeting, taking their kids to the dentist, or engaging in a range of other activities that require timeliness. Even knowing they could cause an accident doesn’t stop those running late from speeding and putting everyone around them at risk for injury.
Driving alone in a vehicle creates a sense of anonymity and detachment from others for some drivers. Have you ever looked over and seen someone picking their nose in their car? The same feelings that lead drivers to casually pick their noses without care while driving also cause some drivers to speed. These drivers do not feel social pressure to conform to norms and comply with laws. They know they will likely never see those they share the road with again, so they may not necessarily care who has witnessed their behavior. Unfortunately, speeding leads to far more accidents than picking one’s nose.
Disregard for the Law and Others
Some people just don’t care about the safety of others. These individuals have little, if any, regard for the well-being of other drivers and don’t worry about complying with the rules of the road. They feel laws do not apply to them, and they do not think about how their reckless speeding could impact others. Although this motivation for speeding does not occur as frequently as others, it may rank as the most dangerous. Speeders who have no regard for the law or safety of others often speed habitually, putting other motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians at risk every time they get behind the wheel.
Speeding Laws and Violations in Houston
Houston Police and Texas Peace Officers often issue violations when people travel over the posted speed limit. However, speeding sometimes refers to traveling too fast for road, weather, or traffic conditions. Under Texas law, drivers cannot operate a vehicle at “a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent” for the surrounding environment. Drivers must also consider actual and potential hazards to avoid collisions with people or other vehicles.
This broad law gives law enforcement officers discretion to issue speeding citations in any scenario where they feel the driver’s speed exceeds what is safe given the surrounding conditions. Drivers can receive a ticket for speeding even if traveling below the posted limit.
Drivers must slow down when:
- Approaching intersections and railroad crossing.
- Approaching the top of a hill.
- Driving on curvy roads.
- Pedestrians are nearby.
- Heavy traffic exists.
- Poor road conditions exist.
- Poor weather conditions exist.
Law enforcement might issue speeding tickets that carry a wide range of penalties, from fines to a suspended or revoked driver’s license. Those who excessively speed—more than 20 miles per hour over the speed limit—often face the harshest penalties and could also receive a ticket for reckless driving. Speeders typically face harsher penalties when their actions lead to property damage or bodily harm. Causing a fatal collision can also lead to criminal vehicular manslaughter charges that come with jail time if convicted.
Severe Injuries From Speeding-Related Collisions
Speeding is dangerous, not just a harmless habit or driving behavior. Speeding leads to more severe injuries, many of which can prove life-threatening. Examples of critical injuries that accident victims sometimes face after a speeding-related collision include:
Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)
The impact of a speeding-related accident can result in an indirect blow to the head and might also cause blunt force trauma if someone hits their head on a window, the dashboard, a seat, etc. Either case can lead to traumatic brain injury (TBI). Mild concussions occur when the brain moves around inside the skull. These injuries sometimes heal quickly but can cause long-term brain damage.
More severe TBIs can lead to death at any time during someone’s life after an accident. Depending on the area of the brain where the damage occurred, victims can face various lifelong challenges with their cognitive and motor functions. In the worst cases, speeding-related accident victims suffer brain damage that leaves them in a permanent vegetative state.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Speeding-related accident victims face the risk of sustaining an acute spinal cord injury, which can prove life-threatening in some cases. An acute injury occurs any time the spinal cord suffers bruising or tears, whether partially or completely.
These injuries lead to temporary or permanent paralysis in some or all of the body. The exact loss of body function will depend on the location of the injury along the spinal column. Due to the neck’s close location to the brain, spinal cord injuries in the neck block most signals from the brain to the rest of the body.
This area also impacts a person’s respiratory function. These severe injuries may require the use of a ventilator, and injured individuals may never breathe on their own again. Those who survive a spinal cord injury face a lifetime of costly treatment and therapy; those who suffer a spinal cord injury in their upper back or neck will almost certainly need a wheelchair.
Speed-related traffic collisions have so much force that internal injuries commonly result. Since you cannot see internal injuries, accident victims might not know the full scope of the damage immediately. Crashes cause bodies to move in weird ways, and they can get pinned too.
Something as seemingly harmless as a broken rib can prove extremely dangerous. Broken ribs can puncture vital organs the same way debris from the crash can. Accident victims might also suffer from punctured lungs, causing them to fill up with fluid. Kidneys, the liver, the heart, lungs, and various other organs may pose a danger during a speeding-related accident. Those who do not get immediate medical treatment have little chance of survival after a crash.