The Texas Legislature has passed two bills to make our roads safer statewide and reduce preventable tragedies. The bills were inspired by one of the most devastating crashes in Texas history. In 2021, a pileup involving 133 vehicles on Interstate 35W left six people dead and dozens injured. An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that the company tasked with maintaining the highway didn’t effectively monitor roadway conditions. North Tarrant Express (NTE) treated the road two days before the crash, but the road was iced over because of below-freezing temperatures, rain, and sleet. NTE didn’t de-ice the pavement again, which made the conditions even more hazardous for drivers. After the first several drivers lost control of their cars due to the icy roads, cars behind them couldn’t stop. The toll company faces lawsuits from family members who allege negligence caused needless deaths.
The NTSB report indicated several things that went wrong before the deadly crash. Along with the improperly maintained roads, drivers traveled over the speed limit. The bills received bipartisan support from legislators and passed with the help of an overwhelming majority of representatives. While these laws won’t completely fix the potential problems with Texas roads — concrete barriers on I-35W may have contributed to the accident’s severity, and lawmakers are pushing for the highway to be evaluated — they are a step toward making state roads less dangerous.
House Bill 1885 allows Texas Department of Transportation engineers to change the speed limit on a road or highway without approval from the Texas Transportation Commission in the case of construction or inclement weather. Variable speed limits have been shown to reduce crashes, and the NTSB investigation into the 2021 crash recommended that Texas implement variable speed limit signs. While the variable limit can’t be lower than 10 miles per hour below the existing speed limit, slowing down on icy roads can save lives. Traveling fast on an iced-over road increases the risk of skidding, a factor in the I-35W crash.
House Bill 4797 requires private tollway company employees to receive the same training as Texas Department of Transportation employees. Some states have publicly owned toll entities, but public-private partnerships own toll roads in Texas. These private toll companies haven’t always been held to the same standard, and the federal investigation found that inadequate training contributed to the deadly accident two years ago. Employees told investigators that they didn’t have experience detecting ice on the roads and relied on slamming their brakes to see if they skidded. The Department of Transportation will share its training materials with toll companies.
How To Stay Safe On Texas Roads
You can’t control other drivers’ behavior, so some car crashes are out of your control. Additionally, hazardous weather can increase the risk of a crash, which was the case with the I-35W tragedy. But there are steps you can take to remain a safe driver and reduce the chance of being caught off-guard while traveling in potentially dangerous conditions.
Know How To Navigate Icy Roads: Most people think of Texas as a warm weather state, but winter icy roads are common and dangerous when many drivers aren’t experienced with cold weather conditions. There are extreme weather driving tips you should follow, such as slowing down and never following another car closely when driving on an icy road. Take caution when accelerating or braking because both can increase the risk of skidding.
Pay Attention To Your Surroundings: It’s easy to let your eyes glaze over on the road and search for a distraction to help with boredom. But seemingly harmless behaviors like reading a text message or turning around to talk to a passenger take your attention away from the road, making it harder to react. Almost 20% of crashes in Texas are caused by distracted driving.
Invest In Connected Vehicle Technology: The NTSB investigation suggests that connected vehicle technology could have warned drivers about the crash ahead. The board recommended that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) develop performance standards for connected vehicle technology and resolve interference issues and other problems.
How To Handle a Texas Accident
Nearly 4,500 people died in Texas traffic accidents last year — that’s 12 people a day on average. The new safety initiatives have the potential to save lives and decrease the number of families torn apart by reckless driving. Victims can pursue legal action for their losses when a Texas car wreck causes injury or death. The Cochran Firm represents car accident victims and their families across Texas. Physical injuries from a car crash can be devastating but aren’t the only potential consequence. Millions of Americans develop PTSD yearly from the emotional toll of car crashes. A personal injury lawsuit can help car accident survivors get the compensation they need to move forward.
Our team at The Cochran Firm Texas can handle negotiations with insurance companies and advocate for you to get a fair settlement. If negotiations fail, we can represent you in court. Our attorneys have expert experience with Texas car accident lawsuits. Call 1-800-THE-FIRM (800-843-3476), or contact us online for a case consultation.
At Cochran Texas, we understand that needing legal help can be scary. It doesn’t have to be. We are a trusted leader in the legal profession and in our community. We know you are more than a case number. We get to know you as a person. This allows us to offer a balanced and thoughtful approach to giving you the best possible legal representation. Our mission is to protect the legal rights of ALL people in our community. No matter your race, gender, background or income level you have a right to skilled legal help. Call us at 800-843-3476.