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Unsafe at any speed: Houston, Dallas top worst cities in US for traffic deaths

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In 2016, 37,461 people were killed in crashes on U.S. roads, an increase of 5.6 percent over 2015, which had seen its own increase of 10.5 percent from the year before. (Image courtesy of{ }Rio Rancho Fire Rescue / MGN)

If you feel like news stories of traffic-related deaths have been everywhere recently, it’s not all in your head. In 2016, 37,461 people were killed in crashes on U.S. roads, an increase of 5.6 percent over 2015, which had seen its own increase of 10.5 percent from the year before.

A lengthy report by the Houston Chronicle compiled data from the NHTSA from 2001 through 2016 and found that Houston, Dallas, and Phoenix had the deadliest roads of the 12 largest metropolitan areas in the country based on deaths per capita. All three cities share a common theme: most of their urban and suburban development occurred after cars became commonplace.

MORE: Feds unveil plan to reduce pedestrian deaths in U.S.

Though the report focused largely on Houston itself, it ranked the 12 cities in 13 different categories of traffic fatalities, from interstates to intersections. Houston was first overall, with 640 deaths per year and 2,850 serious injuries, the equivalent of “three fully-loaded 737s crashing each year at Houston’s airports, killing all aboard.”


The Lone Star State’s largest city was first in drug and alcohol-related deaths per capita, and no lower than fifth in any category. Texas’ largest metropolitan area, Dallas, came in second overall, though first in instances of speeding, interstates, pedestrians on interstates, and traffic backups, while Phoenix was third. Of the 12 cities in the study, Boston had the lowest instance of traffic fatalities per capita overall.

Unfortunately, the report also outlines the city’s failure to improve its road safety, citing data that shows the number of crashes in Houston has increased almost every year since 2010 with a slight drop last year, as has the number of serious injuries reported.

It also cites speeding as a major cause of traffic fatalities, in part due to Houston’s network of large freeways and long commute distances. Dallas, Houston, and Phoenix all hovered around 1.5 or 1.6 speeding-related deaths per 100,000 people, while no other city was higher than 1.2.

So what can be done? The report suggests that increasing traffic enforcement is a good start, as cities saw a dramatic rise in highway fatalities with layoffs and reduced citations among local and state police.

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