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Push to lower speed limits in Houston neighborhoods could save lives

HOUSTON – It has been more than 20 years since Texas has had a single day without a traffic death and members of the state legislature want that to change. Research proves a small change in the speed limit could save thousands of lives.

“There is a 70% chance of survival at 25 miles per hour versus 30 miles an hour,” according to Leigh Killgore, the Super Neighborhood 14 President. Houston’s Super Neighborhood Alliance and the Greater Houston Coalition for Complete Streets have teamed to help push two bills that would reduce the speed limit in residential neighborhoods.

One is House Bill 442 sponsored by Texas House Representative Celia Israel, to lower the speed limit in residential areas to 25 mph in Texas cities.

Texas Senate Bill 221 sponsored by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, says speeds would be lowered in neighborhoods to 25 mph in cities with a population greater than 950,000.

Senator Judith Zaffirini sent an official statement to KPRC 2, which reads:

“Studies from multiple institutes, organizations and agencies have demonstrated conclusively that lowering speed limits in urban districts greatly increases the likelihood of survival for pedestrians struck by a vehicle. Senate Bill 221 would reduce the prima facie speed limit from 30 to 25 miles per hour in urban districts of the four largest Texas cities: Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. Protecting drivers and pedestrians has long been one of my legislative priorities, and this bill equips local officials with an additional tool to keep their residents safe. It has been more than 20 years since Texas had a single day without a traffic fatality. I look forward to collaborating with my colleagues to develop solutions to reverse that trend.”

Dexter Handy is a retired United States Air Force Lieutenant colonel. He is very involved in everything Houston transportation and as a member of the Greater Houston Coalition for Complete Streets and he’s working alongside Killgore throughout this entire process and understands the need for change.

“Someone in Houston dies in a crash every other day, and three people experience life-altering injuries every day,” said Handy.

Research from AAA supports this position, unveiling new data from new crash tests that show modest speed increases have deadly consequences, proving that speed is a factor in nearly a third of all traffic deaths in the U.S.

Luisa Peterzen’s 10-year-old son Victor, a Bunker Hill Elementary 4th grader who loved to play the piano, was hit and killed while riding his bike after school in his neighborhood last September.

“As a child living in a residential area, we do not live on the highway, we do not live in an avenue, we live in a neighborhood where people should be watching out for children. I trust we’re safe until a driver didn’t use the breaks,” said Peterzen.

She wants to make sure no other mother has to endure the same horrific pain of losing a child.

Both Killgore and Handy are optimistic that these bills will successfully push forward. In fact, this week Killgore, Peterzen and Mayor Turner will have a virtual meeting about the effort in reducing the speed limit in Houston neighborhoods.

According to Handy, it would cost the city $25.6 million a year to make the change and post 25 mph signs on all residential streets in Houston.