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Steven M. Lee, PC

Safety Measures Could Decrease Texas Highway Truck Congestion and Collision Risks

Severe truck congestion on Texas highways increases driving risksHouston is an especially busy traffic hub in one of the liveliest states in the entire country. Texas is a commercial gateway that allows millions of dollars’ worth of merchandise and trade to flood the country—however, instead of water, this flood comes as a sea of truck traffic.

With its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and the rest of Texas, Houston lays smack dab in the middle of a dangerous network of interstate highways that carry these trucks to their final destinations. The area’s most congested interstates include I-10, I-59, I-45, I-225, I-290, I-288, Hardy Toll Road, and Loop 610. Each of these roadways can quickly become packed with big rigs in tight traffic, and the more congestion there is, the higher the risk of a catastrophic truck accident.

Failed Attempt to Address Congestion by Encouraging Speed

In an attempt to free the interstates from being overrun by truck traffic, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) came up with the idea of the Texas 130. The Texas 130 is an alternative route that aims to ease heavy traffic between Austin and San Antonio. The 41-mile stretch of toll road, which opened in late October 2012, has the nation’s highest posted speed limit of 85 miles per hour.

The TxDOT assumed that the higher speed limit would draw traffic (truck or otherwise) away from the interstates; it even offered discounted truck tolls to attract more truck traffic. Unfortunately, this assumption by the TxDOT was spectacularly misguided. Allowing cars and trucks to go faster on a highway isn’t conducive to lowering accidents. Despite the good intentions of creating an alternative route, the execution failed to convince truck drivers that the faster route was worth the higher risks it created.

Those risks include:

  • Increased stopping distance. The normal speed limit for a truck is 65 mph. This limit is enforced because trucks have larger stopping distances at higher speeds than smaller vehicles. If allowed to travel 20 mph faster than the suggested limit, a truck’s stopping distance will increase by more than 150 feet. Rather than being able to come to a complete stop after 240 feet, it would take a truck traveling at 85 mph 400 feet to completely stop.
  • Increased chance of losing control. Because they are much heavier than most passenger vehicles, commercial trucks are more challenging to maneuver and control at high speeds. Furthermore, many trucks have warning systems or governors preventing them from traveling faster than 70 mph.
  • Increased anxiety. Truckers admit to experiencing greater stress when cars pass them at 85 mph when safety rules limit them to a top speed at 65 mph.

Productive Safety Measures to Clear Congestion and Decrease Truck Accident Injuries

So if a faster highway has failed in clearing the congestion—while dangerously promoting more accidents—what should be the next step? It’s clear that trucks need more room to maneuver safely with traffic, and current highways are no longer able to accommodate the volume of traffic their size in high numbers.

In 2015, the Texas legislature passed Senate Joint Resolution 5, which allowed a popular voter on an amendment to the state constitution to reform highway funding. The measure was approved in November 2015. Under the amendment, a portion of sales and use taxes will be directed to the State Highway Fund every year, beginning in September 2017. That would amount to about $2.5 billion a year for TxDOT initially, according to revenue estimates by the Texas comptroller’s office.

This reform measure has the potential to bring needed highway safety improvements throughout Texas. Some of the improvements we might look for include…

  • Wider shoulders. Larger shoulders will allow for incapacitated vehicles—even full-sized tractor-trailers—to pull over completely.
  • Brighter paint and reflectors. More noticeable signs and traffic indicators can make lanes more visible.
  • Stronger median barriers. More durable guard rails can prevent minor accidents from crossing a median or going off the side of the road.

Breaking Free of the Consequences of Truck Congestion

Although traffic congestion and truck accidents are a common risk when traveling on Texas highways, the good news is that the legal system gives you an opportunity to fight back. Regrettably, there is no way to undo injuries that are sustained in a truck wreck, but if you’ve been involved in such an accident, you might be able to recover financial damages.

Contact an experienced personal injury attorney to get the information you need regarding what’s involved in filing a claim and what to expect afterward. To schedule a FREE consultation with an attorney who has 38 years of experience handling truck accident claims, call our office today at 800-232-3711.


Steven M. Lee
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Houston Attorney at Law

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