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100 Deadliest Days | Summer driving season just days away on the heels of the second deadliest year on Texas roadways

TXDOT: 4,480 people killed on Texas roads in 2021

AUSTIN, Texas — The latest numbers from both the Texas Department of Transportation and AAA Texas are staggering as we approach summer driving season.

In 2021, 4,480 people were killed on Texas roads, making it the second deadliest year since TxDOT began tracking fatalities in 1940. Sadly, 1981 was the deadliest year with 4,701 fatalities.

It's not just here in Texas, numbers are up across the nation, an estimated 20,160 people died in car crashes during the first half of 2021, up nearly 20% from 2020.

“Driver behavior is one of the causes, but also one of the most important solutions,” Laura Ryan, TxDOT's Transportation Commissioner said. “This is not blame. These are facts. We all have a role. TxDOT can do more, and we accept that responsibility. The driving public can do more. For instance, in 2021, a total of 1,522 people were killed because of speed, and a total of 1,219 people were killed because they were not wearing a seat belt. These were decisions made by people that could have potentially saved 2,741 lives.”

Sergeant Bryan Washko with the Texas Department of Public Safety agreed, adding we all have a responsibility and it should begin with parents modeling correct behavior around young drivers.

"We remind adults out there that if you have a teen driver, set a good example and ride with them. Especially during nighttime hours, you have to remember that these drivers are inexperienced," Sgt. Washko said. "They are new to this and it takes several years to become a good driver, just because they have a driver's license, remember that does not make them a good driver, that comes with years of experience."

To that point, AAA Texas released a report in 2021 that found Texas teen drivers were involved in more fatal crashes than young drivers in any other state. According to AAA Texas, "from 2010 to 2019, there were 2,318 deaths on Texas roadways involving teen drivers, with nearly 30% occurring during summertime. California ranks 2nd in total deaths involving teen drivers at 1,631, followed by Florida at 1,584." 

“Texas leads the nation in the total number of fatal teen automobile crashes that occur during summer months when younger drivers tend to have more unstructured time behind the wheel,” said AAA Texas spokesperson, Daniel Armbruster. “Parents should encourage teens to double down on staying focused when driving, buckling up for every ride, and driving within posted speed limits.”

There are three factors, according to AAA Texas, that commonly result in deadly crashes for teen drivers:

  • Distraction: Distraction plays a role in nearly six out of 10 teen crashes, four times as many as official estimates based on police reports.
  •  Not Buckling Up: Research published in 2015 shows that 60% of teen drivers killed in a crash were not wearing a safety belt.
  • Speeding: Speeding is a factor in nearly 30% of fatal crashes involving teen drivers. 

"It's very disturbing to see any kind of fatality but whenever you see a young life, someone who's just getting started and just began driving, that's very hard to process," Sgt. Washko said. "As a parent or guardian, don't be afraid to set the rules and guidelines for them, even stern rules."

To help get the conversation started at home, ahead of the summer driving season, AAA Texas has a four page guide to help parents coach their teens on driving safely.

"Parents should encourage teens to double down on staying focused when driving, buckling up for every ride, and driving within posted speed limits," Armbruster said.

Sgt. Washko grew up here and he's seen the roadways fill up as more and more people want to call Texas home. He's asking for everyone to stay vigilant and aware on the roads at all times.

"The highways are going to be packed compared to when I was 16 and in the same area, it was not this congested," he said. "You have to say that with the ever growing population there's going to be more vehicles and more risk of having a crash which is why we stress put those phones down, slow down, make sure you wear those seatbelts."

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