There is a whole lot of Texas represented in a recent ranking of the 50 Most Dangerous Highways in the United States.
Eleven of the 50 highways – roughly 1 in 5 – are in the Lone Star State, according to a report by the personal finance website Value Penguin.
Three of those highways - Interstate 20, Interstate 35 and US 175 – run through North Texas. I-20 in Texas was ranked the 6th most dangerous highway, I-35 was ranked 20th and 175 was ranked 42nd.
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A lot of factors went in to determining how “dangerous” these highways are, according to author Dr. David Ascienzo, including:
• Fatal crashes per vehicle: Miles-traveled per capita, which “highlighted highway stretches which have a disproportionate number of fatal crashes compared to the number of people who drive on it,” according to Ascienzo.
• Fatalities per crash.
• Percentage of fatal non-vehicle collisions, which “was meant to serve as a proxy for inherent risk factors that aren’t due to dealing with other reckless drivers,” Ascienzo explained.
The report singled out Dallas County as the location where the majority of the fatal crashes along all three local highways happened during the six-year-period studied (2010-2016).
According to data culled from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (NHTSA-FARS), there were 490 fatal crashes along I-20 in Dallas County that resulted in 594 deaths. Along I-35 in Dallas County there were 590 fatal crashes that resulted in 644 deaths. And along US 175 there were 74 fatal crashes that resulted in 89 deaths.
A representative from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) did not dispute the rankings or the data, but emphasized that there are multiple efforts made to improve driver safety.
“Safety is our number one priority,” said Donna Simmons, of the TxDOT Dallas District. “We aim to reduce the number of fatalities and crashes on our roads every day. From inception to completion, design to construction, our engineers are committed to designing and constructing the safest roads possible.”
In addition, Simmons pointed to the many statewide educational campaigns TxDOT sponsors each year:
• Be Safe Drive Smart - includes Work Zone Safety, Move Over Slow Down, Back to School, I35, Energy Sector, Pedestrian/Bike Safety, and/or other general topics
Beyond those campaigns, Simmons indicated TxDOT has made $1.3 billion of improvements to I-35E through Dallas and Denton counties, including $798 million in improvements to the Horseshoe Project – a redesign of the I-35E interchange with Interstate 30 near downtown Dallas. Farther south, Simmons noted that $666 million is being spent on the Southern Gateway project to reconstruct I-35E south of downtown Dallas. And along I-20 through Dallas County, TxDOT is in the process of making more than $61 million of improvements to frontage roads and ramp modifications to “enhance the safety of the interstate,” Simmons said.
Another portion of the Most Dangerous Highways report focused on the frequency of fatal crashes involving a drunk driver.
According to the Value Penguin report, 44.5 percent of all fatal crashes along Interstate 20 in Texas involved a drunk driver. Those percentages were 39.5 percent along I-35 and 34.5 percent along US 175. Those figures are all noticeably higher than the 28.7 percent overall national average frequency of fatal crashes involving a drunk driver.
Two recent incidents along Interstate 20 that would be included in these statistics if they happened earlier involve the deaths of a Dallas police officer and a young mother.
Dallas police Senior Corporal Earl “Jamie” Givens, 55, was hit and killed on his motorcycle last month while on-duty and working a funeral escort. Givens had shut down the eastbound on-ramp from Bonnie View Road onto Interstate 20 when a reportedly drunken driver hit him.
In April, Amberly McCray, 23, was killed by an accused drunk driver, who was headed the wrong way when he hit her head-on along Interstate 20 in Duncanville. McCray left behind a large family, including a nine-month-old son.
McCray’s pastor, Denny D. Davis of St. John Baptist Church in Grand Prairie, presided over her funeral.
“It's a senseless death. It's an untimely death. And nothing is more painful than to see somebody die at an early age at no fault of their own,” Pastor Davis said. “And then to leave a small child behind - it is most devastating, and actually tears a family apart.”
Pastor Davis is in Illinois this week, visiting his father who is in the hospital after being hit by a drunk driver. In addition, Pastor Davis noted that he is, himself, only a few years removed from being hit head-on by a drunk driver.
“If you know you had more than you should have, own it. Stop telling yourself you can drive or that you can handle it,” Pastor Davis said. “Too much pride, I think, often interferes with sound judgment when it comes to drinking.”