Texas is the second-largest state in both size — 261,797-square-miles — and population — more than 27 million people — but the sprawling Lone Star State commanded the No. 1 spot when it came to the number of road fatalities and the number of road deaths per 100,000 people in 2014, according to financial news website 247WallSt.com.
That year, Texas’ 3,538 road deaths represented the most in the nation. The following year, 2015, the death toll grew to 3,578, and in 2016, a staggering 3,773 people lost their lives on Texas roads, according to Texas Department of Transportation data.
Some 44 percent of motorists killed in Lone Star State crashes in 2016 were not wearing seat belts when the fatal crash occurred, the agency reports, and more than half — 53 percent — of the 496 motorcyclists who died were not wearing helmets.
Texas law doesn’t require helmets for riders over 21 if they have completed a safety course or are covered by an applicable insurance plan, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motorcycle helmets reduce the risk of death by 37 percent and reduce the risk of head injury by 69 percent.
Citing 2014 data from the nonprofit traffic safety organization Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 247WallSt.com ranked Texas as the 16th most dangerous state to drive, despite leading in the number of road deaths per 100,000 people and the total number of road fatalities.
Most Texans (91 percent) used seat belts that year, likely keeping the number of road deaths from being even greater.
Half of the fatal crashes that year took place on rural roads, which 247WallSt.com notes are far more dangerous than roads in populated areas.
“Research shows that drivers tend to drive faster and more recklessly on rural roads, are less likely to wear seat belts, and are more likely to strike a wild animal crossing the road,” according to the site.
CBS News in 2016 listed America’s nine most dangerous counties for drivers and two of them were in the Lone Star State.
Leon County in east Texas occupied the No. 3 spot, while tiny Reeves County, population 14,000, in the western part of the state was No. 7.
Drunk driving is a factor in more than one-quarter of Texas road deaths.
The state Department of Transportation reported that in 2015, 1,000 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes where a driver was under the influence of alcohol, accounting for 28 percent of the total number of traffic fatalities that year.
The figure dropped slightly — 987 people died in crashes involving a drunk driver— in 2016, making up 26 percent of that year’s road deaths.
The most alcohol-related crashes were reported on Saturday mornings between the hours of 2 a.m. and 2:59 a.m.
Distracted driving was cited as causing 481 Texas road deaths in 2015 and 455 in 2016.
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