Recently, the Houston Chronicle published an extensive report detailing the danger on Houston highways, and it is staggering, probably worse than many thought.
The death toll is the equivalent of three fully-loaded 737s crashing each year at Houston's airports, killing all aboard. Losing that many planes and passengers would lead to federal hearings, but the Houston roadway deaths are met largely with silence, other than the occasional warning from public safety officials to drive safely and be careful crossing the street.
The numbers are incredible. According to their report, 640 people die every year on area highways and another 2,850 are seriously injured. Lots of high-speed highways, long commutes, lax traffic law enforcement, a lack of red light and speeding cameras, and poor protection for cyclists and pedestrians are among the contributing factors.
But, if you have lived and driven in Houston for any significant time at all, that should be no shock to you whatsoever.
I should start with myself as I've been driving on Houston streets for quite a long time now. I've been in only a couple of accidents, thankfully, the most recent of which totaled my truck a few years ago when a young woman, staring at her phone, ran a red light. She is lucky I was able to stop enough to not hit her square on her driver's side door, or she might not be around.
I posed the question to people on Facebook to see if they were lacking shock over these staggering numbers as I was. Turns out, they were.
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This doesn't minimize the problem. In fact, I would argue it illustrates it. We are all numb to the impacts of tragedy on our highways, which means we need even greater vigilance when it comes to driving. The crashing airplane analogy is particularly important because it further demonstrates just how many lives are lost and just how little we seem to notice compared to other large-scale tragedies.
If nothing else, this should make us all even more aware of the issue and, hopefully, push us in the direction of fixing the problem.