Drivers, We Have a Problem

Date:

I never knew them. They died the year before I was born. My great-grandparents were killed Easter Sunday morning while traveling to Lufkin from Shreveport. They owned a big farm right on the Red River. I visited it a couple of times as I got older, before the casinos moved in and divided it up. My mother spent her summers there as a child. It was a huge loss to her and my family.

They, along with my great aunt, all died when a drunk driver crossed the line. The other driver and his two passengers also died. I have read many times the old yellowed front-page newspaper that my mother saved that depicted the tragic scene.

My story is not much different than yours. We have all had similar experiences in our lives. We have lost family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances on the roadway. The sad thing is that it continues to happen every single day. That’s what End The Streak is all about.

TxDOT started keeping a count of the deaths in 2000, long after my great-grandparents died. The last few months of that year, the deaths totaled 570 statewide. In 2022, the total was 4,406. And year to date, we sit at 3,181 statewide. And the holidays are just beginning, which usually indicate a high traffic fatality count. In 22 years, 83,611 people have died in 555,566 traffic crashes on Texas roadways.

In the nine-county Lufkin District in 2022, the numbers totaled 76 fatalities that resulted from 5,127 crashes on our district roadways. So far in 2023, 73 lives have been lost, and that number could go up.

The top reason for crashes in the Lufkin District is failure to drive in a single lane. The other familiar reasons fall right in behind that one – unsafe speed, pedestrian failure to yield the right of way to a vehicle, and intoxication (drugs and alcohol). There were also other familiar reasons that included passing in a no-passing zone, disregarding a stop sign or signal, driver distraction/inattention, fatigue, driving on the wrong side of the roadway.

The numbers are staggering. Drivers, we have a problem.

We all hear the stories and see the numbers, and we feel bad for those who have lost loved ones, yet we get behind the wheel and never give safe driving another thought. And our youngest drivers are in real danger. Some have never completed a real driver’s education program. Many were allowed to drive under parental supervision and then get their driver’s license when they turned 16. Problem is, while they might want to be responsible drivers, some parents are in real need of a driver’s education class.

I have talked to students who really think that when you enter a major roadway from an entry ramp, oncoming traffic is supposed to yield for them to enter the roadway. It’s these types of problems that need addressing.

Ending The Streak of daily fatalities on our roadways should be at the forefront of our minds when we get behind the wheel of a vehicle. I believe we can change our bad driving habits that lead to these rising statistics.

We really have no choice, because if we don’t, there will be others who we will know and love who will die today, tomorrow, and every day after that. And somewhere, there will be family members who never live to see many of those who have yet to be born.

Rhonda Oaks
Rhonda Oaks is the Public Information Officer for the nine-county Lufkin District of the Texas Department of Transportation. A Lufkin native, she is a graduate of Hudson High School and Angelina College. She has a background in print journalism and worked for many years as a newspaper reporter and a freelance writer. She has received eight Associated Press awards. Her articles have been published in many publications over the past 25 years.

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