Traffic fatalities were recently called “a real crisis in our state,” by an official with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). Even though 2020 saw fewer people out on the roads going to work (or just about anywhere else), our state still managed to have more traffic-related fatalities than we’d had since 1984.
Pedestrians are most at risk of serious or fatal injuries caused by drivers who are speeding, distracted and/or under the influence. In the first half of 2020, Texas had the second-highest number of pedestrian fatalities in the country.
A new law was named after a Texas mom killed in a crosswalk
Last September, a new law took effect that enhances penalties for drivers who injure pedestrians. It’s also designed to protect those on bicycles, electric scooters and neighborhood electric vehicles or golf carts who have little or no protection against a vehicle.
Under the new law, a driver who injures a pedestrian can face a Class A misdemeanor charge. If the pedestrian is seriously injured, the driver can be charged with a state jail felony. The law is called the Lisa Torry Smith Act after a Texas mother who was killed by an inattentive driver as she walked with her son to school in a crosswalk.
As of last November, 555 pedestrians had been killed in collisions throughout the state. However, pedestrian deaths are just part of a larger pattern that only seems to be getting worse. Also as of last November, TxDot said that, on average, over 11 people had been killed every day in 2021 in traffic incidents.
It’s good for victims and surviving family members to be able to get some criminal accountability for drivers who cause injury or death – too often because those drivers are simply not paying attention to their surroundings. However, victims and survivors also have the right to seek civil justice and compensation for expenses and damages.