Maybe I-45 Isn't One Of The Deadliest Stretches Of Highway

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Commuters in the Woodlands, UH students, Galveston day trippers, people driving to Dallas for some reason, and any number of other Houston motorists - congratulations on cheating death!

According to Fox News, I-45 in Harris County ranks fifth in a list of the 10 most dangerous stretches of highway in America with 153 deaths in the past five years. Apparently the danger stems from the sheer volume of traffic on this stretch of highway.

But Raquelle Lewis, a public information officer for the Houston district of the Texas Department of Transportation, tells Hair Balls those numbers are misleading.

"Harris County is one of the largest counties in the nation and it has one of the longest stretches of interstate," she says. "If you just do the math on the number of fatalities in a large county versus the fatalities in a smaller county, you're gonna get more. The data that was used to support the [Fox] story was not normalized...our numbers are based on the number of crashes per million vehicle miles traveled."

In terms of crashes per 100 million miles traveled, TxDOT recorded 363.09 on I-45 in Harris County from 2005 to 2007, versus 357.48 on other stretches of interstate highway in urban areas of Texas for the same three-year period. That's not much of a difference, and in 2006 2007 I-45 was actually lower than other areas.

So we'll have to take back the congrats for cheating death. (If you can't trust Fox News, who can you trust?)

Lewis says increasing safety on I-45 is still a priority. TxDOT wants $3 million of the federal stimulus bill -- you may have heard of it -- for increased signage and lane stripe maintenance on the Houston-area corridor. Of course, that's just one of several ready-to-go highway projects that the agency is running up the flagpole. And such efforts will likely have little effect on one of the biggest causes of fatalities.

"About 60 of [the deaths reported in the Fox story] involved DWIs, so I mean, that's not a design, signage, pavement or striping issue," Lewis tells Hair Balls.

There you have it, Houston -- there may be a lot of death going down on 45, but don't start feeling special, or anything.

-- Blake Whitaker

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