Deadly crashes around Houston area skyrocketed during pandemic

There has been a 24% increase in car crash deaths during the pandemic; Fewer are wearing seatbelts, more people speeding

The Texas Department of Transportation’s accident statistics are in, and they paint a bleak picture of Houston area drivers.

There is now empirical evidence that in 2020 and 2021 during the pandemic, fatal accidents shot up in Houston.

According to data provided by TXDOT, during the same period, in Houston, Harris County, and statewide, seatbelt use declined.

“We found about a 2% drop in seatbelt use since 2019. Big deal, except that there are 50 to 60 million one-way trips made by Texans every day. So that’s a million or so less people wearing seatbelts,” Director of the Center for Transportation Safety at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute Robert Wunderlich said.

Data / Graphs provided by Texas A&M Transportation Institute. (KPRC-TV)

Between 2019 and 2021 speed-related fatal accidents increased by 54% in Harris County.

Between 2019 and 2021 drug and alcohol-related fatal accidents increased by 47% in Harris County.

According to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, Harris County logged 422 fatal accidents, pre-pandemic, in 2019.

By 2021, that number had skyrocketed to 577, a 37% increase.

KPRC 2 Investigates crunched the numbers, specifically regarding the City of Houston, using data from TXDOT.

In 2019, fatal accidents stood at 266 people.

By 2021, the number of fatal accidents in the City of Houston had skyrocketed to 331, a 24% increase.

Comparison maps showing where deadly crashes happened in Houston in 2019 and 2021. (Copyright 2022 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

The strong upticks in a variety of types of fatal accidents beg the question, “What’s going on?”

The pandemic is an obvious first suspect in our changed driving behaviors, according to experts.

“Maybe there’s a feeling of nobody’s going to tell me what to do,” Wunderlich said. “We don’t really know, so that’s speculation on my part.”

The solution to the problem may be an age-old combination of more disciplined driving including lower speeds and more seat-belt wearing.