The numbers are in, and there were fewer deaths on Texas highways in 2018 than in the previous years, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
The Insurance Council of Texas says 3,567 people died on the state's streets, roads, and highways last year, compared with 3,720 in 2017, which is a 4% drop from 2017.
There is also good news for pedestrians. Pedestrian deaths hit an all time high in Texas of 676 in 2017, but they were down 12% last year, to 597.
After gradually falling during the nineties and 2000s, thanks largely to more safety features in both cars and roads, the number of traffic deaths in Texas began to rise in 2010, and rose by 34% before the 2018 decline. But last year's highway deaths are still 25% above the 2010 low, a figure that officials blame almost completely on distracted driving caused by the emergence of the iPhone and other technologies.
The Insurance Council's Mark Hanna says the new state law banning texting while driver may have a lot to do with the drop in highway fatalities.
“Because of the tremendous loss of lives, many ICT member companies supported this legislation and the public awareness campaigns appear to have had an impact," he said.
There are bills introduced in the 2019 session to expand that law to outlaw all use of hand held electronic devices while driving. The 2017 law only banned texting while behind the wheel.
But Hanna says the two leading causes of traffic deaths, drunk driving and speeding, remain.
In addition to safer vehicles, the Insurance Council says the nationwide adoption of 21 as the minimum drinking age in 1975 has saved tens of thousands of lives on U.S. highways.
“Distracted driving is a nationwide problem with more than 3,400 fatalities in 2016 and insurers have worked hard to draw attention to the problem,” said James Lynch, chief actuary for the Insurance Information Institute. “The presence of a distracted driving law lets people know the behavior is dangerous. Enforcing it makes people respect the law.”
SOURCE: INSURANCE COUNCIL OF TEXAS