Last day Texas had no traffic deaths: 11/7/2000
Over the course of 12 years, a lot can happen. We could elect multiple American presidents, take part in the census twice and watch the Chicago Cubs continue their never-ending World Series drought.
It's a long time especially when you consider this little-known stunning fact: The last day there wasn't a single fatality on Texas roads was 12 years ago Wednesday, on Nov. 7, 2000.
The statistic puts a stark perspective on the 41,252 people who have died in fatal traffic accidents on state roads during that time frame.
Texas Department of Transportation officials on Wednesday said the majority of wrecks on 80,000 miles of state roads were caused by people not wearing seat belts, drinking and driving and distracted driving.
"One fatality on a Texas roadway is one too many, and to see as many as eight or 10 in a single day is unacceptable," said TxDOT executive director Phil Wilson.
The Houston area alone has more than 10,000 miles of state-run roadways. Experts have historically called the area the nation's leader in alcohol-related road fatalities among populous cities, citing its limited public transportation and urban sprawl that causes people to drive many miles.
Harris County Sheriff's Office spokesman Thomas Gilliland said deputies have worked to combat the problem with aggressive awareness programs and initiatives that expedite search warrants for blood samples from drunken driving suspects who refuse breath tests.
Road safety advocates point to legislation as a possible solution to decreasing traffic fatalities.
John McNamee, M.A.D.D. Southeast Texas affiliate executive director, said the Houston area has had "horrific" crashes recently. "Almost every week there have been one or two fatalities due to alcohol," McNamee said. "It's still a big issue."
He lauded local law enforcement's efforts to inform the public about safe driving and hopes the state Legislature passes a requirement to put an ignition interlock system in first-time DWI offenders' vehicles.
Jonathan Adkins, a spokesman for the National Governor's Safety Administration, said Texas' independent anti-government intrusion culture could be detrimental in preventing traffic deaths. He said 39 states have passed distracted driving bans. In 2011, Gov. Rick Perry vetoed a texting while driving ban.
Adkins also pointed to the dangers of a new toll road near Austin that allows motorists to drive 85 miles per hour.
"We have to create a culture in Texas and across the country where traffic deaths are not acceptable," he said. "Traffic crashes continue to kill people every day, and they are preventable."