Driver error common denominator in fatal crashes
Polk County Enterprise, April 2007
LIVINGSTON -- The common factor in this year's 11 traffic deaths is driver error, according to reports from the Texas Department of Public Safety.
The direct causes of the nine crashes are varied but excessive speed played a role in several, Sgt. Nita Bowen said.
Unsafe speeds were factors in six of the nine fatal accidents, DPS reports show.
In two of the crashes, drivers were on the wrong side of the road. The driver fell asleep in one wreck and a passenger vehicle ran a stop sign and failed to yield to a tractor-trailer in another. Heavy rain contributed to this week's double-fatality, DPS reports said.
State, county and city officials are evaluating possible changes to traffic control measures on major thoroughfares to improve safety.
Consulting engineers working with the Texas Department of Transportation are completing a traffic flow study for the City of Livingston and plan to present it at Tuesday's city council meeting.
One of the problem areas evaluated was the intersection of Church and Washington in downtown Livingston.
Since the intersection is already controlled by traffic signals and is well within a reduced-speed area, officials are limited in what further measures can be taken, according to Richard Ivy, traffic systems administrator at TxDOT's Lufkin office.
"It's already signalized and traffic on Church has already traveled through several signals," Ivy said.
The City of Livingston contacted TxDOT last March after a survey of city residents showed signalization for left-turns and other traffic issues were major concerns, said City Manager Marilyn Sutton.
City officials sent a letter to TxDOT requesting the study, Sutton said.
Possible new control devices include reinstalling left turn signals at Church and Washington and at Church and Highway 146, Sutton said.
"We're looking at the possibilities of installing left turn lanes, but there's some trade-offs if that happens."
The on-street parking near Washington and Church would have to be removed, Ivy said. There would also be longer waits for a green light, he said.
"If we separate (northbound and southbound traffic), through traffic and left turns would be allowed to go at the same time. For example, southbound traffic on Washington would go and then when the light times out, northbound through traffic and left turns would go," Ivy said.
The number of drivers that ignore the barriers on Hwy. 59 near Baskins Department Store also concerns city officials, Sutton said.
She cited 17 or 18 accidents at that location and the city asked TxDOT to consider installing a concrete barrier that cars cannot drive over.
"There's a lot of traffic in Livingston," Ivy said.
TxDOT also studied U.S. 59 from the Livingston city limits south to the Goodrich city limits to see if speeds need to be reduced, Ivy said.
During the study, TxDOT staff studies reports from all the accidents at that location and look for patterns and conduct speed studies, Ivy said.
Ivy added that accidents that occur away from an intersection are difficult to prevent through traffic control measures.
"A lot of accidents are due to lane changes, running off the road and overcorrecting," Ivy said.
Today's drivers also have a huge number of distractions, including cell phones, stereos and DVD players -- even though they're usually only visible to back-seat passengers.
Traffic flow engineers welcome input from the public in deciding what measures to implement, Ivy said.
"Sometimes when accidents are scattered we rely on the public to call and give us a heads-up then we can look into it and change traffic control devices and make it safer.," Ivy said.