Five Effective Responses to Houston Being the Deadliest Transportation System in America

Picture of a car crash on a Houston freeway

The Houston region is the deadliest metro region in America, according to a powerful story the Houston Chronicle published this morning as the start of a series on the traffic safety epidemic of the nation’s 5th largest metropolis.

The factors that contribute to the carnage boil down to a choice. The choice to wear a seat belt. The choice to drive more calmly and with less aggression. The choice not to follow the masses and to slow down.

“The public needs to understand the cost of … being able to drive fast,” said Crossley, formerly with Houston Tomorrow, who is currently researching Texas’ roadway safety standards. “People take for granted that it is a trade-off.”

Why do they speed? Many drivers say because everybody else is going fast and they don’t want to be a “rolling roadblock.”

“It’s just who we are,” lifelong Houstonian Bob Reynolds, 52, said as he filled up the tank on his minivan off Interstate 69 near Shepherd.

Through our work on Vision Zero Texas, we have long advocated for the City of Houston to adopt a Vision Zero Action Plan and for regional and state transportation planning to take safety more seriously. But what can really be done to turn this deadly ship around? How can we save lives?

Here are five effective policy responses that the leaders of the Houston region can deploy over the next year that will save lives:

  1. Harris County and the City of Houston need a Vision Zero Action Plan to end the epidemic of traffic deaths, including a comprehensive speed management approach.

    Of the ten largest cities in America, only Houston, Dallas, and Phoenix continue to lack a commitment to ending traffic deaths and lack a Vision Zero Action Plan to solve it.

  2. As part of a suite of measures to take safety more seriously, the Texas legislature should pass the Safe Neighborhood Streets Bill to allow cities like Houston to move forward with designing and retrofitting safer residential streets.
  3. The Houston – Galveston Area Council should develop a regional Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Action Plan and meaningfully incorporate prioritizing safety into regional transportation planning and funding decisions.
  4. As we complete the Bayou Greenways project, we should rapidly fund and complete the Neighborhood Greenways, a grid network of safe streets connecting most households in the City of Houston.

    For the price of four major freeway interchanges, you could connect most households in the Houston region to a safe grid to walk, bike, and drive on, while also installing a little flooding and water quality treatment in every neighborhood.

  5. It should not be legal to drive in the Houston region while you’re actually on the phone. The best way to achieve this is for the Texas legislature to pass a statewide Hands Free Bill, but the cities and counties of the Houston region must be prepared to act independently if our state leadership fails to protect us this coming Spring and pass their own ordinances.

Texas leads the nation in traffic deaths, with ten people dying every day. The Houston region leads the nation’s metros in traffic deaths. We can lead the nation in ending traffic deaths. We sent people to walk on the moon. We can make it possible to walk in Gulfton without risking your life.

Cover photo by Flickr user Luna715. Some Rights Reserved.