Jun 6, 2022 - News

Texas cops to crack down on speeding

Illustration of a traffic light with all yellow lights.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Watch your driving speed in coming weeks — police may have their radar guns out.

Driving the news: Austin police will be amping up their speed limit enforcement to crack down on vehicle accidents, per a new safety campaign launched by the Texas Department of Transportation.

By the numbers: Last year, more people were killed in vehicle crashes in Texas than in any year since 1981 — and 34% of those deaths involved speeding.

Under Operation Slowdown, starting tomorrow through June 21, police will be turning their focus to speeding, and the state agency is doing a major ad buy on TV, radio, billboards, gas pumps and social media to encourage slower driving.

Yes, but: The Austin Police Department has shifted officers away from traffic enforcement to patrol duties in recent years, KUT reports.

  • Speeding citations issued by Austin police dropped from roughly 100 tickets daily in 2017 to 10 daily in 2021 — even as traffic deaths increased.

Plus: A recent study of traffic signs in Texas found that interventions that "seize people's attention" (signs displaying the number of recent local traffic fatalities) can cause more deaths.

  • What they found: "In-your-face," "sobering" and negatively framed messages seize too much attention and interfere with drivers' ability to respond to changes in traffic conditions.
  • By the numbers: Weeks when the signs were up saw a 4.5% increase in the number of crashes over 6.2 miles after seeing a sign. That works out to an extra 16 fatalities per year in Texas.

The other side: TxDOT has ceased including fatality numbers on its electronic highway signs.

  • "We look for every way to make our roads as safe as possible, and to use effective measures to remind drivers that most of the time they have the power in their hands to help prevent fatalities on our roadways," TxDOT spokesperson Veronica Beyer told Axios.
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