Lower Traffic Count Does Not Affect the Death Count as Expected in Texas


A story in the Houston Chronicle recently took an in depth look at how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the rate of serious injuries and deaths on highways throughout the state of Texas.  Everyone expected the rate of death and serious injuries caused by vehicle wrecks to decrease.  Some even expected that the percentage of deaths and serious injuries per mile driven to go down as cutting traffic count so significantly could make those remaining on the roads safer than before, given the capacity of the roads for traffic.

Unfortunately, that is not what happened.  While the total number of deaths and serious injuries from traffic is down significantly, the number of deaths and serious injuries per mile driven has actually increased.  The article confirms that the traffic count has been roughly cut in half during the pandemic induced shutdown, but 241 fatalities occurred during March compared to 305 in 2019.  Using rough math, we should expect around 153 deaths and not the 241 that occurred.  Why is the death rate per mile driven actually increasing significantly during a time of decreased traffic and increased social distancing?

As I thought about this, I think I may have stumbled on a reason.  The roads throughout the major population centers have been used over capacity for at least the last 25 years.  As a result, before the pandemic, many areas regularly had crippling traffic jams that sometimes required an hour and a half commute to drive less than 30 miles in all metropolitan areas.  By halving the number of cars on the road, those remaining motorists are able to drive much, much faster.  The roads throughout these population centers remain dangerous.   Construction re-routing traffic and changing traffic patterns are still present, but people are able to drive faster through these danger zones, resulting in more devastating injuries and death per mile driven.

Be careful out there when you drive.  The other guy may not be as mindful as before as light traffic creates the illusion that there is not trouble ahead.  If the unthinkable does happen to you or a family member, we at the McCraw Law Group are here ready to help put your life back together.