Reducing driving deaths

I guess it’s good that TxDOT is going to spend $600 million to improve road safety, but it’s TxDOT, so honestly I don’t expect it to be spent thoughtfully. This is, after all, agency for which “transportation” always means “driving a car” first.

The Texas Department of Transportation proposes spending $390 million, 65 percent of the total safety money set aside by the Texas Transportation Commission, to reduce incidents in which drivers veer from the roadway. Though causes vary, so-called “departure incidents” represent 41 percent of the serious injury and fatal injury crashes in Texas last year.

Another $60 million will go toward pedestrian improvements, which claimed 10 percent of the money despite being more than 21 percent of the roadway fatalities statewide.

The miracle of Houston driving. 

I don’t know that you can do much with $60 million to deal with transportation infrastructure that is pedestrian-hostile by design. I have no objection at all to improving the way roads are built to make them safer; that’s just common sense. But it seems like we’d be in a better long-term situation if we could actually make automobiles less of a requirement of life in Texas – at least in our urban areas – by investing it in good transit options (bus improvements, BRT, rail) and by spending some money to improve the licensing and enforcement process (an awful lot of people driving on Texas roads should not be driving anywhere, at all, based on the decisions they are making while driving).

Too often making roads “safer” means making them wider, straighter, and reducing stopping points, which all have the effect of making the environment around them less safe for pedestrians. So I’m not optimistic about this. I’d love to be pleasantly surprised.

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