Is the Texas Interstate 45 the most dangerous road in America? Not exactly, but it does come in a close second to I-4. I-45 isn’t just one of the deadliest interstates in the country; it also ranks among the most dangerous roads in the world.
The latest study conducted by Teletrac analyzes fatality data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) between 2016 and 2019. According to the report, I-45 recorded 260 fatalities over a 285-mile stretch of freeway in three years.
The most dangerous stretch of highway that recorded the highest number of deaths is the portion between Dallas, TX and Galveston, TX, with the deadliest city in the section being Houston, TX. The report listed I-4 as the most dangerous road in America.
What exactly makes I-45 so dangerous? Here’s everything you need to know.
Car Accident Statistics on I-45 at a Glance
- 0.913 fatalities occur for every mile of highway
- The most dangerous section of highway between Dallas, TX and Galveston, TX, recorded 260 deaths over a 285-mile stretch
- The month that records the highest number of fatalities, in general, is October
- The most dangerous day of the week to be driving on the highway is Saturday
- Most of the fatal car accident reports on I-45 indicate that most crashes occur between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m.
- The most common harmful events that take place on the highway by frequency are vehicle crashes, pedestrian-related accidents, and vehicle overturns
- The overall number of truck accidents per year in Texas results in more than 500 fatalities, as reported by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
- Motorcycle accident statistics on I-45 indicate that in 45-50 percent of associated deaths, the motorcyclists were wearing helmets
- Commercial truck accident statistics on I-45 reveal that more than 60 percent of fatalities that occur are that of the passenger occupants of the vehicle
The Leading Causes of Fatal Crashes on the Texas Interstate 45
While it is difficult to pinpoint a specific feature of I-45 responsible for the alarming number of accidents that occur on the freeway, the main culprits are drivers. Below is an overview of the 13 most common causes of fatal crashes that occur on the Texas I-45.
1. Distracted Driving
Distracted driving is no doubt one of the leading causes of car accidents on I-45 today. Despite texting and driving being outlawed in Texas in 2017, this hasn’t done much to deter motorists from engaging in the behavior.
It’s important to mention as well that distracted driving doesn’t only encompass the use of a phone while on the road. Playing loud music, fiddling with electronic gadgets, grooming, eating, and even talking to other passengers are some of the most common types of distractions for drivers on the interstate highway.
2. Drunk Driving
Most of the fatal crashes that occur on the Texas Interstate 45 occur between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m., and with good reason. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) reports that a significant number of those crashes can be attributed to drunk driving.
As stipulated by Texas law, the legal blood-alcohol limit is 0.08 percent, like most states across the country. Several of the vehicle accidents that occur on I-45 are the result of motorists driving while intoxicated. In most of the fatal crashes that occur, the driver in question was found to have a blood-alcohol level that surpassed the legal limit.
3. Drugged Driving
While several states across the country have legalized the use of marijuana and cannabis derivatives, Texas has not yet joined this bandwagon. Nonetheless, in several of the accidents that occurred on I-45, an alarming number of motorists were driving while impaired.
In some cases, drivers were found to have illicit drugs in their system, including narcotics like morphine, heroin, cocaine, and codeine. In other instances, the presence of controlled substances like depressants, hallucinogens, and in some cases, anabolic steroids were detected. Prescription medication has also been found to be a culprit in many of the freeway accidents that occur on I-45.
4. Reckless Driving
Reckless driving (not to be confused with careless driving) is another leading cause of I-45 crashes in Texas. A reckless driver can be defined as a motorist who displays blatant disregard for the rules of the road and, in the process, endangers the lives of other road users.
According to the NHTSA, fatal vehicle accidents resulting from reckless driving account for approximately 3.5 percent of all fatal crashes on US roads. The same applies to Texas I-45 accidents.
Reckless driving includes behavior such as switching lanes erratically without warning and following too closely behind other vehicles. These kinds of driving antics have been known to cause accidents on the freeway.
Careless driving, on the other hand, refers to behaviors that can be considered accidental or unintentional, but still pose a danger to other road users. The single most common cause of fatal accidents related to careless driving results from driver distraction.
Although it is not unusual to find people driving at high speeds on the open road, motorists are still required to adhere to the posted speed limits. A large number of accidents on Interstate 45 have resulted from motorists driving too fast for the existing road conditions.
Several of these crashes happen when drivers are unable to safely navigate curves in the road; misunderstand or make assumptions about other drivers’ actions; are unable to compensate due to excessive speeds; or, are unable to compensate for an illegal maneuver made by another car.
6. Failure to Obey Traffic Signals and Signs
Several of the reported accidents have been the result of drivers failing to obey traffic signals and signs. This behavior accounts for close to 4 percent of the fatal crashes that occur on I-45.
7. Drowsy Driving
Falling asleep behind the wheel or blacking out while driving are some of the common nonperformance errors that contribute to fatal crashes. The NHTSA reports that these account for approximately 3 percent of auto crashes on I-45 annually. Drowsy driving may result from illness or extreme fatigue, making it difficult for drivers to stay awake while they’re behind the wheel.
8. Poor Weather Conditions
Hazardous weather – particularly rain – is yet another major cause of fatal crashes on Interstate 45. Rainy weather results in poor visibility, slick roads, and unpredictable conditions while driving.
Additionally, poor roadway and atmospheric conditions have contributed to many accidents that occur on I-45. These include things like view obstruction and blinding glare from the sun.
The Teletrac report pointed to pedestrian-related accidents as being among the leading types of vehicle crashes on Interstate 45. These occur when motorists suddenly encounter pedestrians at points on the highway where they’re not supposed to be. As a result, they end up swerving to avoid hitting them.
There also have been instances where objects fall off trucks, forcing cars following behind them to swerve. High winds on the interstate and slick road surfaces have also caused drivers to swerve unexpectedly, causing crashes.
In simple terms, overcorrecting refers to a motorist reacting to an object on the road, an unexpected action by another driver, or any other unforeseeable event, which then causes them to lose control of their vehicle. As a result, the driver in question ends up over-steering/overcorrecting, subsequently causing an accident.
The NHTSA reports that overcorrecting accidents account for approximately 4 percent of the fatal crashes that occurred on I-45 over the last decade.
11. Failure to Yield
Failure-to-yield crashes commonly occur at interstate highway intersections, particularly when drivers attempt to merge with oncoming highway traffic. These types of accidents account for nearly 7 percent of the fatal crashes that occur on I-45. When drivers fail to yield, regardless of who has the right of way in such scenarios, it increases the potential for collision.
12. Veering Into Neighboring Lanes
Roughly 8.5 percent of the fatal crashes that occur on I-45 result from drivers failing to keep to their lane while driving on the freeway. The reasons for these vary widely and may include anything from impaired driving, drowsy driving, or even distracted driving. In some cases, a driver may veer into a neighboring lane if they’re suffering from a medical condition such as a heart attack or stroke.
13. Road Rage
When drivers become upset by the actions of other motorists, they often let their emotions get the better of them. This may cause them to act irrationally. Although road-rage-related accidents on I-45 may not be as common as some of the other causes we’ve explored so far, they do, to some extent, contribute to the fatal crashes that occur on the freeway.
On a side note, it’s important to keep in mind that not all causes of fatal car crashes can be accounted for. This is especially the case when it comes to identifying and isolating all the variables involved in a traffic accident.
It is not always easy, nor is it always possible to gather all the facts relating to a crash, to make a conclusive inference on what caused it. According to the NHTSA, more than 30 percent of the fatal crashes that occurred on Interstate 45 over the last 10 years had no reported causes identified.
Economic Loss Due to Traffic Motor Vehicle Crashes
Car accidents have a devastating effect on victims and their kin. A report by the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that approximately 1.35 million people lose their lives every year as a result of traffic crashes.
Another 20 to 50 million people suffer non-fatal injuries, many of which result in some kind of disability. The same report further states that car crashes are the single leading cause of death among children and young adults aged 5 to 29 years.
As you would expect, road traffic crashes come with a huge economic burden attached to them.
According to a white paper prepared by the Together for Safer Roads Initiative, the impact of vehicle crashes on the global economy comes at a $518-billion-per-year cost. In the US alone, auto crashes account for losses amounting to $242 billion annually. This can be broken down as follows:
- 39 percent in losses resulting from traffic congestion, medical costs, and other associated losses
- 28 percent resulting from property damage
- 25 percent resulting from loss of productivity
- 8 percent resulting from loss of household productivity
The true economic cost of vehicle crashes varies depending on the size of the economy in question. According to the WHO report, traffic accidents account for approximately 2 percent of the GDP in high-income countries (although some studies cite these costs at 3 percent); 1.5 percent of the GDP in middle-income countries; and 1 percent of the GDP in low-income countries.
Economic Impact of On-the-Job Deaths
Road traffic crashes are the leading cause of on-the-job fatalities in the US. An estimated 2,100 people die in road-related accidents on the job, while 353,000 others suffer injuries that result in partial or permanent disability.
According to the NHTSA, the direct cost associated with a single road crash fatality is estimated at $1.4 million. Eighty-seven percent of those costs are directly related to the loss of productivity both at home and in the workplace.
The Together for Safer Roads Initiative report indicates that fatal crashes cost US employers roughly $3.3 million in premiums for wage-risk and another $3.8 million in both fringe and non-fringe benefits. Non-fatal crashes, on the other hand, cost employers up to $52,000 in premiums for wage-risk and an additional $128,000 in fringe and non-fringe benefits, respectively.
The industries that bear the biggest economic brunt resulting from traffic crashes include those in the land transportation sector, automotive repair and sales, heavy construction, mining, and those in agriculture and forestry.
The Buck Stops With You
All in all, road crashes have a devastating impact on nearly every sector of the economy. The solution lies in improving road safety, particularly on highways – such as the Texas Interstate 45 – that report the highest number of fatalities per mile.
On an individual level, ensure that you stay alert when you get behind the wheel. This involves avoiding distracting behavior such as texting while driving, adhering to the speed limits, not driving while intoxicated, and practicing defensive driving every time you get on the road. The buck stops with you.
On a lighter note, check out our blog to discover the top must-visit pit stops on I-45 in Texas.