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Crash rates are climbing, TxDOT says - Odessa American: Vehicle Accidents

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Crash rates are climbing, TxDOT says

Number of fatal wrecks may double this year

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Posted: Friday, August 10, 2018 4:24 pm

Unofficial estimates of 2018 crash rates from the Texas Department of Transportation show fatal crashes in the area could nearly double this year.

TxDOT released the estimates within the 12 counties in the Odessa district at the Driver Behavior News Conference today.

The results from their findings show the district is projected to surpass the number of fatal crashes from last year. About 105 crashes with fatalities were filed from police reports between the months of January and July compared to 137 crashes with fatalities in 2017.

Public Information Officer Gene Powell said that at this rate the outcome will be near 240 fatalities just within the 12 counties.

Powell said he believes this year is worse because of “a combination of the population increasing and the increased number of commercial vehicles due to the increased oil field activity, but it all comes back to driver behavior.”

He said that many ask what TxDOT will do to remedy this situation, but Powell said he believes that the responsibility to address this issue falls on everyone in the community working together as a team. Every Monday morning the Odessa District TxDOT sets aside time to review the fatal crashes in the district and looks for things to improve, Powell said.

“We recognize that improvements need to be made and we are working diligently to make those improvements with our staff and with our consultants, but it comes down to one thing; you have to drive to the conditions that exist today,” Powell said.

The conditions that Powell refers to means adjusting driving based on factors like the weather and flow of traffic.

“If you’re the one driving 20 mph faster than everybody else, then you’re the problem,” Powell said.

TxDOT has several safety programs currently in place. One initiative is the “Be Safe. Drive Smart.” campaign, which is a year-long public education effort that aims to make drivers more aware of their own unsafe driving habits and provide safety tips, their website states.

The presentation highlighted driving while intoxicated, distracted driving, drowsy driving, aggressive driving and speed disparity between drivers as key behaviors to eliminate to reduce the number of crashes. Heather Morales attended the conference with her 12-year-old daughter, Erica, and said they are both concerned about safety on the roads.

“My husband is training for a triathlon, so he has been doing a lot of bicycling on Highway 191,” Heather Morales said. “We’re concerned about his safety. Those three bicycle deaths really shook us up.”

A 29-year-old Midland woman was killed June 7 after being hit from behind while riding her bicycle on the Highway 191 service road and two others were killed April 25 after being hit by a truck while riding on Highway 158, the Odessa American previously reported.

Heather Morales said that her husband is proactive and utilizes mirrors, lights and reflective clothing to stay safe, but would like something that could create further separation between vehicles and bicyclists. She said she also uses driving as a teaching tool for her daughter to practice awareness for other drivers displaying unsafe behaviors.

“Some of the drivers are so aggressive,” Erica Morales said.

The last day in Texas when there was not a fatal crash was Nov. 7, 2000, the TxDOT presentation stated.

Powell said that the 2018 data will change since reports can be filed within 30 days of a crash. The official statistics from 2017 can be found on the TxDOT website.

Odessa, TX

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