Speeding and not wearing a seatbelt contributed to the deaths of thousands on Texas roads in 2021, making it the second deadliest year on record, state officials said.

Roughly 4,480 people were killed on Texas roads in 2021, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. In 1981, the deadliest year, 4,701 fatalities were recorded. 

As of Thursday, TxDOT Crash Records reflect 57,456 crashes in Bexar County in 2021. Some factors that have contributed to the increase in road deaths in San Antonio include speeding, alcohol and distracted driving.

Of those crashes, 48,105 happened in San Antonio. About 16,332 crashes occurred at intersections; 532 were speed-related; 1,562 happened in work zones; 57 involved alcohol; and 19,462 were caused by distracted driving. 

Laura Ryan, a member of the Texas Transportation Commission, said in a statement that 1,522 people in the state were killed as a result of speeding and 1,219 people died because they weren’t wearing a seatbelt. 

“These were decisions made by people that could have potentially saved 2,741 lives,” Ryan said. 

Locally, the San Antonio Police Department issued 23,525 speeding tickets in 2021. A total of 959 tickets also were issued for safety belt violations, according to SAPD.

In the first six months of 2021, 20,160 people died in motor vehicle crashes across the country, up 18.4% from 2020, according to TxDOT. In Texas, traffic fatalities went up 15% from 2020 to 2021. 

Art Markman, a University of Texas at Austin psychology professor, said at the annual Texas Transportation Forum that pressures from COVID-19 are adding to fatal outcomes on the roads.

“We have to start considering everyone as part of our community,” said Markman. “If we don’t do that, there are going to be all sorts of negative consequences, and those are going to include negative consequences on the road.”

SAPD’s traffic unit takes a data-driven approach to assign officers to areas, based on crash information, said Officer Nicholas Soliz with the Public Information Office.

“The goal in this is to reduce the number of crashes and fatality crashes,” Soliz said in a statement. “In addition to this, (the traffic unit) targets grant based enforcement on the same data to place extra officers in those hot spots.”

To address traffic safety, researchers are working with TxDOT to study new roadway design features proven to save lives. TxDOT is also using crash data to pinpoint areas where drivers are more prone to crash and will be focused on improvements in those areas and sharing that data with the public.   

“This is an urgent call to action for all of us behind the wheel,” Ryan said. “We can do better. We should do better. We must do better — for ourselves, our loved ones and our larger community of fellow Texans. Not a single death on our roadways is acceptable. Let’s end this streak.”

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Raquel Torres

Raquel Torres is the San Antonio Report's breaking news reporter. She previously worked at the Tyler Morning Telegraph and is a 2020 graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University.