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Published on August 24, 2021

The View from my Seat

How good or bad are Brazoria County drivers?

By Ernie Williamson / The Bulletin

Driving around Brazoria County might give you the impression that our roadways are filled with bad drivers.

But I have a surprise for you.

We may, indeed, have our share of bad drivers, but recent traffic statistics show we are safer drivers than drivers in other parts of the country or state.

According to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), Brazoria County had fewer traffic deaths in 2020 (44) than it did in 2019 (48). The county also had fewer crashes in 2020 (5,110) than it did it 2019 (6,045).

While these Brazoria County declines aren’t huge, they are at least going in the right direction. Brazoria County is bucking a trend.

In much of the rest of the country, traffic deaths are actually escalating. And they are escalating despite the fact that in 2020 Americans were driving fewer miles because of the pandemic.

Nationwide, for instance, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 38,680 people died on the nation’s roadways in 2020. That is the highest yearly total since 2007 and is a 7.2 percent increase compared to the 36,096 fatalities reported in 2019.

That’s discouraging because the nationwide fatalities climbed despite vehicle miles traveled (VMT) for 2020 decreasing by 430.2 billion miles from the year before, a decline of 13.2 percent.

The same trend holds true in Texas as a whole.

In our state, 3,893 people were killed in automobile crashes during 2020, up from 3,623 in 2019. The increase occurred even though traffic volumes were about 50 percent below normal for several months of 2020.

Apparently, pandemic lockdowns and stay-at-home orders kept drivers off the roads last year, but those who did venture out found open roads and engaged in more reckless behavior. NHTSA’s analysis found the main behaviors that drove the increase in deaths were impaired driving, speeding and failure to wear a seat belt.

Won’t you feel better driving in Brazoria County now?

By the way, our more urban neighbors in Harris County followed the nationwide trend with 422 fatalities in 2019 but climbed to 501 in 2020.

I know what you are thinking now: It is safer to drive in rural areas than urban areas. Wrong.
According to TxDOT, the fatalities in rural areas of the state accounted for 51.03 percent of the state’s traffic fatalities.

Other statewide 2020 facts from the TxDOT:

• Single vehicle, run-off-the- road crashes accounted for 34.75 percent of all motor vehicle traffic deaths.

• One person was killed in a crash every 2 hours and 15 minutes.

• There were 958 people killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes when a driver was under the influence of alcohol. That is 25 percent of the total number of people killed in traffic crashes.

• More DUI-Alcohol crashes were reported in the hour between 2 a.m. and 2:59 a.m. than any other hour. Also, more of these crashes occurred on Saturday than any other day.

• There were 368 people killed in crashes involving distracted driving, a 3 percent decrease from 2019.

• There were no deathless days on Texas roadways in 2020.

Drive safely out there.

(Ernie Williamson welcomes reader input. Please contact Ernie at williamsonernie@gmail.com. Or, send letters in care of The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516)