Texas Road Safety Messaging Blames Pedestrians, Ignores Structural Flaws

Critics of the state’s ‘Be Safe. Drive Smart.’ campaign say the messaging puts the onus on pedestrians and cyclists while failing to address the lack of robust pedestrian and bike infrastructure in many of its cities.

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December 4, 2022, 7:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Highway sign with "Stop the strak of TX traffic fatalities" against blue sky

Rosemarie Mosteller / Texas road safety sign

Writing in Next City, Benton Graham describes the criticism faced by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) for its messaging approach to road safety, which in most cases places the blame for crashes squarely on pedestrians (the top reason for pedestrian deaths, according to the department’s website, is “Pedestrians failing to yield the right-of-way to vehicles”) and cyclists.

Meanwhile, “While the state agency lists safety as its number one priority, it only dedicated around 4% of its funds to safety initiatives in its 10-year plan,” Graham notes. Jay Blazek Crossley, executive director of Farm & City and an advocate for safer roads, says “TxDOT investing in safe, multimodal streets is the most important thing that it can do to make roads less dangerous.”

Advocates like Blazek Crossley see cause for optimism in recent state and local initiatives, however. “In addition to infrastructure changes, Blazek Crossley said there is opportunity for safety improvements through policy changes.” FOr example, “The Lisa Torrey Smith Act passed during the 2021 Texas Legislative Session requires drivers to stop and yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.” TxDOT also recently added a pedestrian design section to its roadway design manual, and cities like Houston are making serious investments in bike and pedestrian infrastructure.

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