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Texas Bill To Lower Speed Limit On City Streets Could Save Lives

Did you know that Texas has been at the top of the list for traffic-related fatalities since 2017? From March through December 2020, nearly 500 people were killed in car accidents throughout just four counties. Over 3,600 lost their lives across the state in 2019. And even the city of Austin, which approved lowering the neighborhood street limit there from 30 to 25 mph last June, lost nearly 100 people on the road in 2020. They are far from their 2025 goal of zero injuries and deaths from traffic accidents.

State Rep. Celia Israel of Austin has been fighting to lower the residential speed limit in the entire state to 25 mph for a long time. Her third bill attempting this, House Bill 442, is pending in the current legislative session. 

Like many states, Texas’ neighborhood speed limit of 30 mph is “prima facie,” meaning understood without signs. A study done by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety discovered that lowering the limit by just five mph would increase a pedestrian’s chances of surviving being hit by a car by a whopping 43%.

Another recent study performed in Brazil by the University of Illinois found that reducing speed from 90 to 70 mph decreased accidents by over 20%. 

Israel’s previous bill in 2019 had widespread support across Texas, with endorsements from four major cities (Dallas, Ft. Worth, Houston and San Antonio) as well as statewide law enforcement organizations. It was stopped in the Senate.

Related: Traffic Deaths Increased During COVID-19 Due to Speed

Slowing Texas down will be costly. It would cost $25.6 million to post new 25 mph signs on every residential street just in Houston. Austin is still waiting for their new signs despite having approved the measure nine months ago because of the expense.

Encouragingly, Sen. Judith Zaffirini has filed a similar bill, Senate Bill 221. If passed, it would lower the limit to 25 mph in all cities with less than 950,000 residents, including San Antonio, Austin, Houston and Dallas. It would not affect smaller cities.

Several other U.S. cities have been experimenting with “neighborhood slow zones,” a fairly simple way of making streets safer by lowering the limit to 20 mph. New York City paved the way, soon to be joined by Philadelphia, who has designers fighting over the chance to create two new slow-speed corridors. Portland, Oregon has already installed thousands of 20 mph signs. Boston lowered their residential limit to 25 mph years ago and is considering going lower. 

It seems the obvious solution of forcing drivers to slow down is gaining traction nationwide. It’s proven that slower speeds improve safety easily and quickly; for years, speed limits in the U.S. got higher and higher, leading to 37,000 fatalities in just 25 years.  

Lowering limits is even good for a city’s infrastructure. Supporting faster traffic means larger, wider roads, which can be hard on anyone who lives close to a highway. 

Even more telling: It turns out driving 45 instead of 25 during your downtown commute will only save you an average of just 48 seconds per ¾ of a mile.  

It’s clear that change is on the way, but in the meantime, you’ll need strong legal representation if you find yourself the victim of a traffic accident. The team of attorneys at The Cochran Firm Texas is experienced in handling auto injury cases. For questions or to schedule a free consultation, call us at 1-800-THE-FIRM (1-800-843-3476), contact us here, or use our online chat now. Whenever you’re ready, we’ll be here to get it done together. 

One Comment

  1. Gravatar for Henry Stowe
    Henry Stowe

    I did not realize that attorneys had the time to become traffic safety experts. Traffic engineering studies show repeatedly that arbitrarily lowering speed limits does not change traffic speeds by more than 2 mph, but they do increase non compliance and accident rates according to the most comprehensive FHWA study conducted in the 90s, The Effects of raising and lowering speed limits.

    In New York, Portland, Boston and many other cities that have lowered limits, accident and death rates have not changed.

    The AAA Foundation for traffic safety is funded by the AAA, which is an insurance company. Insurance companies benefit from speeding ticket convictions through sur charges. Lower limits equal higher tickets issued. Why not get back to "fighting for the people" and settle claims instead of burping up propaganda. Do you people have stock in insurance firms?

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