The Houston Metro Region saw a significant spike in car accident fatalities during the COVID-19 pandemic, as more and more drivers seemed compelled to engage in risky behavior on the road.
Houston Car Accident Deaths Up 24% Between 2019 and 2021
According to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, Harris County recorded 422 fatal traffic accidents in 2019, the year preceding the pandemic. By the start of 2021, fatal crashes had jumped to 577, a 37% increase over 2019.
In the City of Houston, fatal car crashes claimed the lives of 331 people during that time period, an increase of 24% compared to 2019.
Researchers at Texas A&M surmise that a statewide increase in risky behaviors — including driving at excessive speeds, failing to use seatbelts, and driving under the influence — was behind the surging death toll.
“We found about a 2% drop in seatbelt use since 2019,” Center Director Robert Wunderlich said, according to Click2Houston.com. “Big deal, except that there are 50 to 60 million one-way trips made by Texans every day.”
Speed-related fatal crashes rose by 54% across Harris County between 2019 and 2021, while those involving an impaired driver surged by 47%.
Fatal Traffic Accidents Surged Nationwide
Unfortunately, deadly car accidents have been rising nationwide in recent years. In fact, fatal accidents even surged during 2020’s coronavirus shutdowns, despite total traffic volume falling by 13% across the United States.
As was the case in Houston and Harris County, three factors were primarily responsible for the spike: alcohol-related crashes rose nationwide by 9% compared to 2019, speeding-related crashes climbed 11%, and fatal crashes involving unrestrained vehicle occupants increased by 35%.
According to the most recent numbers from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), 4,480 people across the state were killed in 4,110 fatal traffic crashes in 2021. That represents a 14% increase compared to the prior year when 3,932 people died in 3,578 fatal wrecks statewide.
Texas reported 632,985 motor vehicle crashes in 2021, increasing about 87,000 (15.9%) compared to 2020.
Tips to Avoid a Houston Car Accident
Houston’s roads and highways remain some of the most dangerous in the nation. When traveling in the Metro Region or anywhere else, for that matter, it’s important to drive defensively and take steps to reduce the risk of a crash.
- Check ahead for traffic. Houston has some of the worst traffic congestion in the country. Map your route before you leave and consider alternatives if GPS indicates heavy congestion on the one you planned to take.
- Always wear your seatbelt, even if you’re traveling a short distance. In a crash, a seatbelt reduces the risk of death by 45% and injury by 50%.
- Drive the speed limit. Posted limits aren’t suggestions; they exist for a reason.
- Never drive under the influence of alcohol or mind-altering drugs, including legal prescription and OTC medications.
- Keep your focus on the road. Never text, use your phone, or engage in other activities that take your attention away from driving, even for a second.
- Constantly scan the road for hazards as you’re driving.
- Give yourself a comfortable cushion – use the 2-second following rule — between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you.
- Be extra careful in bad weather. Slow down and maintain a greater distance between your vehicle and others on the road.
- Share the road. Be extra aware of motorcyclists, and allow extra room and distance when passing any other vehicle.
- Avoid road rage. Leave your emotions at home, and try not to take another driver’s actions personally.
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