Report: Fatal auto accidents have risen for six straight years in Texas

Research shows that traffic deaths have increased in Texas for a sixth year, with potential contributing factors included distracted and drunk driving.

Over the last several years, advances in vehicular technology, such as blind-spot monitoring, collision warning systems and lane-keeping assist, have shown promise to significantly improve roadway safety. Despite these innovations, however, car accidents serious enough to cause injuries and fatalities have risen significantly for several years. Here in Texas, this pattern has been especially pronounced. Per The Southeast Texas Record, new findings from the Insurance Council of Texas show that fatal crashes have now risen for six straight years.

According to the report, in 2016, over 175,000 injurious car accidents and 3,400 fatal crashes occurred throughout the state. Furthermore, during the past six years, the overall number of fatal accidents jumped 20 percent. These changes could be partially attributable to population growth and the uptick in driving that occurred after the recession. However, experts believe negligent behaviors on the part of drivers also play a significant role in this problem.

Contributing factors

Alcohol use remains a prevalent cause of serious accidents in Texas; over half of the state's fatal and injury crashes involve impaired drivers, per the ICT report. In addition, according to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, Texas sees an unusually high rate of fatalities involving drunk drivers. Nationally, drunk driving deaths represented 29.3 percent of all traffic deaths in 2015. The same year, these deaths accounted for 37.6 percent of traffic fatalities in Texas.

Distracted driving has also been identified as a key factor in the state's high rate of traffic fatalities. The Texas Department of Transportation reports that, annually, at least 100,000 accidents involving distracted driving occur. Unfortunately, the state still lacks a comprehensive ban on texting while driving, which is one of the most common forms of distraction.

Adding to these risk factors, the high speed limits observed in Texas may enhance the likelihood of deadly accidents. Per the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, drivers traveling at higher speeds experience all of the following risks and handicaps:

· They have less control over their vehicles and less effective time to respond to hazards.

· They require more distance to stop their vehicles.

· They bring more kinetic energy into crashes, increasing the risk of vehicular damage and personal injuries.

Unfortunately, legislative changes to address these issues appear unlikely in the short term. Texas does not require all convicted drunk drivers to install ignition interlock devices, and for five straight years, lawmakers have declined to pass legislation against texting and driving. Furthermore, state law gives the Texas Transportation Commission power to approve maximum speed limits as high as 85 mph, which may substantially raise the likelihood of serious crashes.

Getting legal help

Tragically, the available data suggests that negligence-related accidents may claim many lives and cause even more injuries during the coming year. After these tragic incidents, victims or their loved ones may benefit from consulting with an attorney about their options for pursuing legal recourse.