Houston, the fourth-largest city in the United States and the most populated city in the state of Texas, is also one of the most dangerous places to drive in the country. If you are a resident of Harris County, you have an increased chance of being injured in a car accident.
If an accident happens, you need the help of an experienced personal injury attorney willing to fight for the compensation you deserve. At Brian White & Associates, P.C., our Houston personal injury lawyers have over 45 years of experience helping Texas residents who are involved in crashes on busy Houston roadways. Contact our team to schedule a free consult
The Volume of Traffic in Houston Contributes to the Danger
Houston is a rapidly expanding metropolis, with a population that has almost doubled in less than twenty years. Put simply, the infrastructure was not designed to accommodate the traffic it now sees, and expansions cannot keep pace with the rapid growth. As the population continues to swell, along with the number of people visiting the city for business, travel, and medical purposes, the roadways are often at far above capacity.
The result is city roads that are congested and overcrowded. In fact, Houston residents spend an average of 119 hours, or almost five days out of every year, in rush hour traffic. After spending hours in rush hour traffic, drivers become frustrated and are far more likely to engage in dangerous behaviors behind the wheel.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, 12,897 people were seriously injured in motor vehicle accidents on Texas roadways in 2019. Of those, 1,392 of the injuries occurred inside the city limits of Houston. When you extend that to include all of Harris County, the number jumps to 2,294.
There are over four million miles of roads in the Houston metro area, and that number is growing each year. A 2017 report compiled by the Texas Department of Public Safety that covers the five years between 201a2-2016 found that the Houston metro area had experienced:
- A 23% increase in distracted driving collisions
- A 40% overall increase in vehicle collisions
- A 20% increase in fatalities
- A 9% increase in serious injuries
Bumper to bumper traffic on roadways that are above capacity gives drivers less space to stop their vehicles when sudden slowdowns, or other issues, arise. With so little room to navigate, injury crashes happen at an alarming frequency. Those crashes, in turn, lead to more congestion and slowdowns, which spread throughout the city every day at rush hour.
Congestion, combined with stop and go traffic, leads to another dangerous activity. When traffic slows to a crawl or stops, drivers become more distracted. Distracted driving is one of the top causes of motor vehicle accidents, meaning it is no surprise that Houston is a dangerous place to drive.
Dangerous Highways and Intersections in Houston
A study done in 2018 named three Houston Highways as among the most dangerous in the United States. For those that live and drive in Houston, the results were not surprising. I-45 is the second most dangerous interstate in the country. Interstate 10 in the Houston area, ranked number five on the most dangerous list. US-59 and US-290, both significant arteries through Harris County, also made the list.
Every year, Houston has the highest number of crashes in Texas. According to records provided by the Texas Department of Transportation, there were 68,682 total crashes inside the city limits of Houston in 2019. That is almost twice as many car crashes as occurred in Dallas, the next closest Texas contender. Harris County also accounts for more than 10% of all traffic fatalities in the state of Texas.
In addition to the dubious distinction of some of the most dangerous roadways in the country, Houston is also home to several dangerous intersections. These include:
- JFK and Aldine Bender
- I-45 feeder at Chartres Street
- East Freeway frontage road at Gellhorn Drive
- Highway 225 at the intersection of Shaver and Scarborough Lane
- The 610 Loop at North McCarty
- I-45 and Greens Road
- Sam Houston Parkway at Westheimer Road
- The South Loop at Main Street
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that roughly 40% of all car crashes happen at, or near, an intersection. So, the dangerous intersections listed above contribute a significant percentage of the car crashes in Houston.
Complacency and Culture Contribute to the Dangerousness of Houston Traffic
The Houston Chronicle conducted a sixteen-year analysis of Federal Highway data. What they discovered is that in Houston, 640 people are killed, and another 2,850 on average, are seriously injured each year on area roads. When all factors are considered, Houston becomes one of the most deadly major metro areas in the country for drivers and passengers.
Houston and its surrounding metro-region have the dubious distinction of ranking second in the country for fatal crashes. The reasons are complex but certainly fueled by leading the country in the number of fatal crashes that involve drugs and alcohol. The region also ranks second for fatal wrecks that involve speeding. When you combine speed with a substantial number of impaired drivers, fatalities are the unfortunate outcome.
Houston officials recognize the problem. According to Houston Police Chief, Art Acevedo, “this city, this county, and this state are the worst in the union as it relates to people dying from DWI.” Harris County Sheriff, Ed Gonzalez, said in a recent interview that “we tend to have a bad driving culture in our region.”
Drunk Driving Statistics in the United States
Drinking and driving, or driving impaired by drugs or other substances, is a serious problem everywhere. According to statistics provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
- In the United States, someone dies every fifty minutes from accidents caused by drunk drivers
- While the statistics have improved over the past three decades, there are still 10,000 people a year killed in impaired driving accidents
- These deaths and damages cost over $44 billion per year
Almost 1/3 of all traffic fatalities in the U.S. involve drunk driving. If you factor in the cases where drivers were technically under the legal limit but still impaired, the ratio would be even higher
Drunk Driving Statistics in Houston
Texas leads the nation in the number of deaths caused by drunk driving. Harris County reports more accidents involving drunk drivers than any other county in the state.
- Each year, an average of over 300 people die in DWI collisions in Houston, making the Houston area the deadliest place in the country for impaired driving.
- In 2019, drunk driving arrests in Houston continued to climb, despite the growth of popular ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft.
Despite the improvement in drunk driving statistics for the rest of the country, the numbers continue to climb in Houston. The lack of adequate law enforcement exacerbates the problem. Too many people get away with drinking and driving, which, despite educational campaigns, contributes to the culture of drinking and driving in Houston.
Aggressive driving is another issue on the highways and roads of Harris County. It is so prevalent that it almost seems to be part of the culture of the area, but it results in significant injuries, property damage, and even deaths. Virtually anyone who has driven on Houston highways can attest to witnessing acts of aggressive driving. Aggressive driving consists of:
- Road rage
- Running red lights and disregard for other traffic control devices
- Swerving and weaving through traffic
- Forcing other vehicles off the road
- Deliberately cutting off other vehicles
Some studies have found aggressive driving to be two to four times more dangerous than drunk driving. Driving aggressively, whether caused by frustration, thrill-seeking, a mental health issue, or the driver’s age, is a significant contributor to the danger of Houston area roadways.
Other Contributors to Houston’s Reputation as a Dangerous Place for Driving
An average week in Houston means eleven fatal wrecks and twelve deaths. Identified causes, in addition to the culture of speed and impaired driving, include:
- Roads are designed for speed in an attempt to alleviate congestion by moving people around more quickly. There are roadways inside the metro area, such as portions of the Grand Parkway, where the legal speed is 75 mph.
- Poorly enforced traffic laws. The Houston area has a low number of officers patrolling for speeders compared to the population and miles driven.
- The texting ban, and other legislation against distracted driving, is lightly enforced in Houston.
- Despite seat belt laws, close to 10% of all drivers still report never or rarely wearing a seatbelt, yet nationwide, 47% of fatalities are unrestrained.
- Officials exhibit an unwillingness to embrace technology designed to fine drivers for traffic violations such as speeding. The technology exists to use cameras to issue speeding citations, but officials are resistant to the use of such technology.
Increasing commute times play a role in the number of accidents in Houston. The longer hundreds of thousands of people spend in their cars, the greater the likelihood of an accident occurring.
Drivers who are impaired or distracted cause a significant number of serious crashes in the Houston region. Stiffer penalties and better enforcement of the existing laws surrounding distracted and impaired driving would save lives and reduce the number of injuries from traffic accidents in the area.
Houston Car Accident Statistics Show Crashes Are a Serious Problem. Our Lawyers Can Help If You’ve Been Injured
At Brian White & Associates, P.C., our Houston car accident attorneys fight for traffic crash victims across the city every single day. Our team has more than 45 years of collective experience, and we’re ready to put that to work for you. Contact our law firm to arrange a free consultation.