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November 07, 2012

Texas marks macabre anniversary: 12 years since last fatality-free day

Cross@gdickson

The last time Texas enjoyed a fatality-free day on its road system - Nov. 7, 2000 - Florida election officials were counting "hanging chads" and paving the way for Texas Gov. George W. Bush to become president.

The Baltimore Ravens had just completed the first of 11 straight wins that would propel them to a Super Bowl championship.

Gasoline was about $1.34 a gallon.

On Wednesday, the Texas Department of Transportation asked motorists to observe the anniversary of Nov. 7, 2000 (which, coincidentally, was also the Wednesday after a presidential election), as a reminder that it's their responsibility to drive safely.

Based on the numbers reported by police agencies statewide last year, the state averages 8.35 road deaths per day. Some days, the carnage on Texas roads is worse than others. But always - since Nov. 7, 2000 - there is at least one person killed.

"We've always kept track of it. It's just not something we've announced in the past," said transportation department spokeswoman Kelli Reyna. "We're just trying to get a call of action to people. We're putting fatality numbers on message signs. We're trying to do more things to make motorists aware of their own actions that can prevent this. We feel it is incumbent upon us to remind people they have a job to do."

Since Nov. 7, 2000:

  • 41,252 people have been killed on Texas roads, roughly the equivalent of the population of Keller. That figure includes 3,048 people killed in 2011 and 2,545 so far this year.
  •  28.9 percent of those killed weren't buckled up.
  • 34.9 percent were in a crash that involved alcohol.
  • 13.4 percent were distracted.

Even as the state raises speed limits - including the 85 mph toll road that opened last month outside Austin - law enforcement officials say they'll be stepping up enforcement to hold the line on fatalities.

“Texas state troopers are dedicated to protecting the public and they will continue working to identify and remove dangerous drivers from our highways,” Texas Department of Public Safety director Steven McCraw said. “I urge all drivers traveling in our state to do their part by driving responsibly, eliminating distractions, adhering to the posted traffic signs and ensuring everyone in the vehicle is buckled up."

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