Automobiles Data visualization Laws and policies Safety
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If you’re in Texas, odds are you’re paying more for car insurance than the average U.S. driver, says a survey by Insure.com.
I ran the survey’s data through Google Fusion Tables to see a bigger picture, and it turns out costs are as varied as the nation’s landscape itself. In particular, extreme highs touch all three coasts as well as the Canadian and Mexican borders.
Hover over states to see average costs. The darker the shade, the higher the cost.
Reasons for the undulating costs are, literally, all over the map, from claim-happy and disaster-prone Louisiana and bumper-to-bumper traffic in Georgia, to slow-poke drivers in Iowa and strict teen-driving laws in Maine, according to Insure.com.
The survey looked at 2013 cars and settled on a typical guy with a clean record and good credit. Texas rolled in at $1,545, ranking 19th overall.
Texas joined 19 other states and D.C. to rank higher than the $1,510 national average. Louisiana tops the list with $2,699. Maine sits at the bottom with $934.
Here are the top 10. Again, use hover to see dollars. The full table’s here.
Laws and policies Roads Safety: Speed limits Texas Department of Transportation
The Texas Transportation Commission approved increasing the speed limit to 75 mph on about 1,500 miles of mostly-rural Interstate highways in the state. Around the San Antonio area, the following stretches will see 75 mph signs soon:
- I-10 West from Loop 1604 to past Kerrville (where it’s already 80 mph)
- I-10 East from just outside Loop 410 to Waller County west of Houston
- I-35 South from Palo Alto Rd. to the existing 75 mph section south of Devine
- I-37 from just inside Loop 410 to Corpus Christi
I-35 between San Antonio and Austin was not approved for the higher speed limit.
The Legislature approved the higher speed limits last year.
- TxDOT’s 75 mph page – http://www.txdot.gov/safety/speed_limit/75mph.htm
Roads Safety: Texas Department of Transportation US 281 wrong-way drivers
In San Antonio and across Texas, there has been a rash of wrong-way drivers (WWD) over the past few years. In San Antonio last year, there was a WWD about every other day. Fortunately, 80% of those drivers caused no accidents. But sadly, seven people were killed by WWDs last year. Of no surprise was that the majority of WWDs were intoxicated.
To combat the problem, several agencies formed the San Antonio Wrong Way Driver Task Force in March 2011. Those agencies include TxDOT, SAPD, City of San Antonio Public Works Department, Bexar County Sherrif’s Office, and Texas Transportation Institute, and the Federal Highway Administration. The task force worked to determine the extent and characteristics of the local problem, evaluate previous research and countermeasures, and formulate a plan to test and implement countermeasures locally.
Commuting Passenger rail Roads Safety Toll roads Travel: Interstate 35
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Planners and pundits have long decried Interstate 35 as Texas’ worst highway.
Notorious traffic backups and numerous crashes on I-35, especially on the stretch from San Antonio to Austin, have spawned big-ticket projects such as the SH 130 tollway and Lone Star commuter rail. Putting two and two together from such thinking eventually led to the now supposedly defunct Trans Texas Corridor.
But more big plans are in the making.
Four committees, each looking at a segment of I-35, are holding public meetings this month to wrap up draft plans on what to do with the highway, its feeders and parallel roads. Billions of dollars worth of projects are eyed, including this for South and Central Texas:
- Convert one I-35 lane each way into toll/carpool lanes from Buda to Georgetown
- Remove tolls and widen SH 130 to six lanes from Seguin to Georgetown
- Build high-speed passenger rail from San Antonio to Dallas
- Build passenger rail from San Antonio to Laredo
- Widen I-35 from San Antonio to Laredo
A recent study laid out what I found to be an amazing stat.
For every hour driving, U.S. life expectancy decreases by 20 minutes, suggests analysis in a University of Toronto study. The shorter life spans are due to crashes.
An hour a day is about the average two-way San Antonio commute. So the typical driver here loses four days a year, about half a year over a 40-year career. The payoff is a year and a half slogging through traffic to make the bucks.
The finding that drivers lose a minute of life for every three minutes on the road wasn’t even the main point of the study. Authors wanted to consider the risks of driving faster to reduce travel times. They determined that time saved by speeding is far outweighed by shortened lives due to higher chances of crashing.
The conclusion: Americans drive a little too fast and can live longer by driving slower.
Construction and closures Roads Safety Travel: Hurricane Alex hurricanes storms
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Latest radar from National Weather Service.
Hurricane Alex is grinding into a Mexican coast, its tails whipping South Texas and spitting out tornadoes. Winds are blowing more than 100 mph.
Though the brunt of the storm wandered south, it was powerful enough to drive both Texans and Mexicans away from their homes to find safer shelter, the Associated Press reported. A slew of tornado, flooding and wind warnings are in place in South Texas, including a flood watch in Bexar County, the National Weather Service says.
Officials closed the Queen Isabella Memorial Bridge in South Padre Island due to winds and State Highway 87 in Galveston because of flooding, the Texas Department of Transportation announced. More than 100 TxDOT workers and 200 pieces of equipment will move in tomorrow to open roads and fix traffic signals and signs.
I’m a good driver. No, really, I am. I do all the things good drivers do: I try to predict what other motorists are going to do and plan accordingly (and I’m right most of the time, no small feat in this town); I keep an eye far enough down the road so as to see hazards well in advance; I know traffic laws inside-and-out and obey them (OK, except maybe for a few mph over the speed limit); I yield the right-of-way to bozos who aren’t paying attention or just don’t care; and so on. But last Friday I did something I’ve seen dozens of others do and something that I’m usually very aware of and am careful to avoid, and the result was a lovely fender bender.
Of course, the first question folks ask is if anyone was hurt. Fortunately, everyone was fine– in fact, the airbags didn’t even deploy. So the next question, then, is what happened?
What happened to me has probably happened to most motorists at one time or another. I was making a right turn and there was a vehicle stopped in front of me waiting for a gap in the traffic. A gap came along and the vehicle in front of me started moving forward, so I started looking back for a gap to merge into. When a break came along a few seconds later, I started to accelerate only to realize that the car in front of me didn’t actually go when I thought they did. I hit the brakes hard but it was already too late. BAM!
Of course, the way to avoid this is to always look forward again at where you’re going before you start to accelerate, not only to make sure the preceding vehicle has cleared, but also to make sure that another previously unseen vehicle, pedestrian, bicyclist, UFO, or whatnot hasn’t suddenly appeared in your path. I usually do this, but this time I was in a hurry and, as a result, was a little careless.
So hopefully my story will help someone else avoid this all-too-common traffic mistake and the unfortunate results it can bring.
Does talking to a passenger distract your driving?
Yes, it does, according to safety officials. And that’s just one of a half dozen habits that distract motorists.
Drivers are considered distracted when they:
- Talk to passengers
- Fiddle with dashboard controls
- Reach for something
- Talk or text on a cell phone
OK, so some of these, especially the last one, aren’t surprises. And it’s the last one that Oprah Winfrey is targeting with her “No Phone Zone” Day, which is tomorrow.
Agencies across the nation, including the Texas Department of Transportation, have joined Oprah’s campaign. Tomorrow, electronic highway signs will flash, “Make Your Vehicle a No Phone Zone,” or “Drive Now. Text or Talk Later.”
Motorists using hand-held devices are four times more likely to be in a crash, TxDOT says. All distractions caused 103,526 accidents and 524 deaths in Texas in 2008.
Nationwide, distractions led to 5,870 deaths and 515,000 injuries, statistics show.
Young people are especially vulnerable. Almost half of teens use phones while driving, a Texas Transportation Institute study found.
Soggy skies put a damper on the start of the year’s biggest party, with officials cancelling tonight’s Fiesta kickoff at Alamo Plaza and moving the opener to Market Square tomorrow. Hope you didn’t head out to Alamo Plaza.
No worries about the revelry cranking up. It will. But before joining the fun, here are some things to check on:
PARKING: Even tested downtown drivers can lose a little focus when Fiesta fills up parking lots and kicks up parking fees. The Express-News has a decent map of parking lots, but alas, doesn’t include fees. MAP
EXPRESS BUSES: Avoid parking altogether by hopping on special Fiesta express buses. VIA set up an event page with details, which includes reroutes of regular services due to street closures. FIESTA BUSES
DRINKING: If you drink, have a drinking and NOT driving plan. The easiest thing to do is assign a designated driver. In a pinch, Yellow Cab will provide up to 700 free rides for certain events, thanks to a state grant. Of course, you can always fork out your own $25 for a cab, and it’ll be a lot cheaper than a $17,000 DWI fine. CALL 222-2222
TRAFFIC: Make it easy on yourself. Just a few minutes checking TransGuide’s site for wrecks and slowdowns can save you an hour on the highway. TRANSGUIDE
WEATHER: Nuff said on that. FORECAST
Now go have a great time. And be safe.
“What the heck is that?!”
That seems to be a common reaction of local motorists as they first encounter one of the flashing yellow arrow (FYA) traffic signals that have popped-up at San Antonio intersections over the past year or so. What began as an experiment in late 2008 at a couple dozen intersections along Wurzbach Rd. and San Pedro Ave. has now spread to about 40 or so intersections across the city and will now become a standard, not just here in San Antonio, but nationally as mandated by the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). As often happens in these cases, there has been some second-guessing amongst the general public as to the necessity of this newfangled signal, but understanding the research that went into it and why it’s beneficial generally allays those knee-jerk criticisms.