Texas Ranks 47 out of 50 in 2018 Safest States in America
Today I read a story and the report issued by WalletHub comparing all 50 states across 48 key safety indicators grouped into 5 different categories. Texas ranked 47 out of 50 with our neighbors in Oklahoma ranking 48th and in Louisiana ranking 49th. At the McCraw Law Group, we are all about public safety. It is why we do what we do. We help our neighbors financially survive devastating injuries while making our community and state a safer place. Because public safety is a major focus for us, I wanted to see why we ranked as low as we did and think about what could be done to make our community, our state and our region a safer place.
Looking at the individual 5 categories, two jumped out as being particularly bad: road safety and emergency preparedness. While this area of the world did not score well in the other areas, in these two area our scores were positively abysmal. In road safety Texas was 43th and Oklahoma was 48th. Road safety was measured by looking at traffic indiscipline (a metric that measures “incidents” due to poor behavior, phone use, speeding, aggressive acceleration, harsh braking or poor turning), fatalities per 100 million miles of travel, DUI’s per capita, pedestrian and pedalcyclist (a fancy term for bicycles) fatality rate per capita, road quality, and driving laws. The fatality scores were given double weight in the scoring. Every day people in this area of the world are driving in both Texas and Oklahoma. Our clients, friends and family are all out there and all at risk.
As far as emergency preparedness goes, Texas was ranked 48th, Oklahoma was ranked 45th and another neighbor, Louisiana, was ranked 49th. Emergency preparedness was graded by considering the number of climate disasters causing more than $1 Billion dollars in damages in past decades and climate disasters causing more than $1 Billion in damages per capita. Our region is uniquely prone to hurricanes, coastal flooding, biblical hailstorms and tornados. We cannot change that. What we can do is improve building codes to discourage building in areas subject to frequent flooding and to engineer buildings to withstand higher wind and larger hail. These “regulations” are sometimes dressed up as business killing or jobs killing by politicians; but effective regulations would go along way to limit the mayhem that occurs all too regularly in this area of the United States when these predictable weather events occur.
As for road safety, we have to start by enforcing the rules which are already being violated that is causing mayhem and death on our roadways. Juries are sometimes reluctant to enforce these rules of the road because the person driving poorly (usually) did not intentionally harm the person or family that was injured by the poor driving. In most cases of poor driving, the bad driver is not criminally prosecuted unless the driving conduct created an extreme degree of risk of an extreme degree of harm (think DUI or driving 100 mph in a school zone). We enforce negligent violations of the rules of the road in civil court when these rule violations harm others. We all have to be reminded that the tort system is there not only to pay back the person who is wrongfully injured, but also is there to deter bad conduct (in this case, bad driving). If we want to make Texas and Oklahoma safer places to drive, then drivers and those who insure them have to know that when bad driving harms anyone, that there will be no discount given by a jury because the full amount of harm equals a lot of money, or because the insurance company has tarred and feathered the injured persons reputation or for any other reason. We are all made safer when bad driving incurs the full costs of the bad driving. Any discount off of the full value of damages caused puts the innocent driver at risk personally and financially and it subsidizes poor driving by keeping insurance rates of poor drivers artificially low. If we as jurors choose to enforce the existing driving laws fully and choose not to discount the value of the harms caused by bad driving, we will go along way to improving the public safety in Texas and Oklahoma. This is one area that the individual citizen has both the power and the duty to improve the safety of the public, if we will just do it.