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The Texas Department of Transportation, or TxDOT, oversees Texas transportation and is headquartered in Austin. The Texas Legislature created the organization in 1917, although the agency has had several names throughout the past century.

Thousands Die On Texas' Roads Every Year. The State Wants To Reduce That To Zero By 2050.

Traffic on the double-decker portion of I-35 through downtown Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Traffic on the double-decker portion of I-35 through downtown Austin.

The Texas Transportation Commission on Thursday voted to adopt a goal of reducing traffic fatalities on the state's roadways by half by the year 2035 — and reducing them to zero by the year 2050. 

That's a tall order in a state that leads the nation in traffic deaths. That's partly a function of being such a large state with a large population — though California, with a larger population and more vehicle miles traveled, had fewer deaths in 2017, according to federal highway data.

Still, the Commission ordered the Texas Department of Transportation to develop strategies for reducing traffic deaths, expressly acknowledging that the majority of traffic crashes are preventable.

“When it comes to safety, it is important for us to establish a clear vision of where we want to be,” Texas Transportation Commissioner Laura Ryan said in a press release.  “For TxDOT, that vision should be a transportation system that is free from fatal crashes.”

Nearly 3,600 people died on Texas roads in 2018 — a slight drop from the year before. At least one person has been killed in a traffic crash in Texas every day since Nov. 7, 2000. There's been an uptick in traffic deaths nationwide over the past few years.

Texas joins more than half of states that have set similar goals of reducing or eliminating traffic deaths.

“While we are committed to invest in the best engineering practices to make our roads safe, we also need drivers and passengers to act more responsibly and help us end the streak of daily deaths on our roads to reach our goal of zero deaths,” Commissioner Ryan said.

Several cities in Texas have their own so-called Vision Zero goals. Typically, they involve a combination of educating people about safety (think anti-texting-and-driving campaigns), stepped up police enforcement and, finally, changes in roadway engineering to reduce the likelihood of a crash that results in serious injury or fatalities. 

Austin approved a Vision Zero plan in 2016, with a goal of eliminating serious injuries and deaths on Austin's roads by the year 2025. So far, little progress has been made. The number of deaths on Austin's roads so far this year is up about 50% over year-to-date figures from 2018.

Efforts to improve road safety at the Texas Legislature this year largely went nowhere.

Matt Largey is the Projects Editor at KUT. That means doing a little bit of everything: editing reporters, producing podcasts, reporting, training, producing live events and always being on the lookout for things that make his ears perk up. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @mattlargey.
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