Mini Report: The Costs of Distracted Driving in Texas

This summer, the Texas legislature conducted a rapid fire special session. With twenty topics on the call, only about half ended up making it to Governor Abbott’s desk and many were left lingering in committee.Farm&City stood with police departments, family members of victims of traffic violence, and  other safety and health advocates to oppose an attempt to go backwards on Texas distracted driving laws, HB 171.

And we won. The bill was left pending in the House Transportation Committee because it did not have enough votes to pass out of committee, following a passionate hearing (video).

We prepared a mini report for the hearing to make sure that lawmakers understood the extent of the problem of distracted driving in Texas and the costs to Texas families. The estimated impact of distracted driving in Texas is between 2 and 3 billion dollars a year, with at least 455 deaths across the state attributable to distracted driving. As explained in the report, we believe the actual number of deaths caused by distracted driving in Texas is much higher.

The Costs of Distracted Driving in Texas – House Version (pdf)

In 2019, the Texas legislature needs to take up smart, comprehensive statewide reform to end the scourge of distracted driving deaths in Texas. We look forward to assisting in finding the optimal way to do it.

[Crash image credit: Ruin Rader, Creative Commons License, via Flickr]

How much do traffic crashes cost the people of Texas? (A: $162 Billion)

Traffic congestion costs the people of Texas over $14 billion a year in terms of lost time on the freeways, according to our tabulation of the Texas Transportation Institute’s 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard. Most Texas elected officials have supported dramatic moves to fund road projects attempting to address this issue. The people of Texas voted to constitutionally require road spending in 2015, and the Texas officials have focused on the “Texas Clear Lanes” project to try to reduce the costs of congestion.

But speeding up traffic is not the only overarching strategy concern that Texas could be focusing this level of attention on, and it is possible that a larger cost is imposed on the people of Texas every year that has nothing close to the level of attention.

Every day, ten people die on the roads of Texas, fifty people suffer incapacitating injuries – loss of limb, brain damage, or other life-changing trauma, and 4,000 other people are involved in traffic crashes not resulting in a death or serious injury.

What are the costs of all these traffic crashes?

In 2016, 3,773 people died in the Texas transportation system, 17,582 suffered incapacitating injuries, 81,704 suffered non-incapacitating injuries, 165,790 people were listed in crash reports as “possible injuries,” and 1,212,833 were involved in crashes without observed injuries, according to TXDOT statistics.

The National Safety Council provides guidance on estimating the economic and comprehensive costs of traffic crashes. TXDOT uses this method to publish its own estimate of the annual economic costs of crashes, concluding that the people of Texas incurred a cost of $38.6 Billion in actual 2016 costs from traffic crashes. So we tabulated the total economic and comprehensive costs of Texas traffic crashes in 2016 using the several methods explained in the NSC memo.

Yet to compare to the TTI estimates of congestion costs, we should use the NCS comprehensive costs methodology, which includes lost quality of life, both for people with shortened lives as well as those living with injuries. Using this estimate, the people of Texas suffered an estimated comprehensive cost of traffic crashes of $162 billion from the crashes that occurred in 2016.

[Featured image credit: Ruin Rader, Creative Commons License, via Flickr]