AUSTIN – Fatal car crashes are becoming more and more common for Texas residents and the trend is impacting not just the lives of locals, but their insurance rates as well.

The Insurance Council of Texas issued a news release Feb. 13 with data showing that fatal car crashes are on the rise in Texas for the sixth year in a row, demonstrating an increase of more than 20 percent over the course of that period. And according to the news release, Texas saw 3,400 fatal crashes and 175,000 injury accidents on the state's highways in 2016.

Despite the growing number of safety features that have been added to modern vehicles, drivers are operating them in an increasingly higher rate while either impaired or distracted, Mark Hanna, manager of public relations and manager of the Insurance Council of Texas, told The Record.

“It seems like there is a constant stream of new safety features in vehicles - anti-lock breaks, rear-view cameras - but the danger continues to increase,” he said.

Hanna explained that the end result of the growing number of accidents is not just that the Texas roadways are more dangerous than ever, but also home to increasingly high insurance rates for Texas' motorists.

“Not only are the accidents causing higher insurance rates, but also the increasing amount of technology found in the average car also means that they are more expensive to repair, which also raises rates," he said. "And of course, as injuries become more common, there is the increased cost of the medical bills.”

There are two major factors that are contributing to the increase in car accidents in the state of Texas: distracted driving and alcohol consumption, Hanna said.

“Over half of these accidents involve alcohol and the state has one of the highest rates of drunk driving in the United States,” he said. “The severity of the accidents could be reduced as well, if people would wear seat belts and refrain from texting while driving. ”

Another factor mentioned by Hanna is the fact that Texas has higher than average speed limits in many parts of the state, a trend that is combined with a rapidly growing population, a healthy economy and low gasoline prices, which overall leads to more drivers on the road and which in turn leads to more opportunities for major traffic mishaps to occur.

Hanna said that the Insurance Council of Texas has been advocating for a state law to ban texting while driving. Many cities in Texas have rules against the practice but once a driver is on the open highways, they are allowed to use their devices as they choose.

“If you talk to the families who have seen their loved ones become the victims of accidents caused by texting and they say 'my son or daughter might be still around today if these laws existed,' it's hard not to be compelled,” he said. “Many of these family members spend each new legislative session campaigning for a change to these rules but despite the fact that it as been brought in the last four state legislative sessions, texting has not been banned.”

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