A recent study of U.S. highways listed 11 Texas roadways, including one in Texoma, among the 50 most dangerous in the country. The study places U.S. Highway 82 as the 26th most dangerous highway in the country, with Grayson County, highlighted as the most dangerous portion.
The study was conducted by consumer data research and analysis website ValuePenguin based on crash and safety records compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for 2010 through 2016.
“The U.S. is home to a network of roadways that measure more than 4 million total miles. Despite technological improvements in automobile quality and standards, there are still more than 34,000 fatal car crashes across the country every year,” data scientist David Ascienzo said in the study's introduction. “Of these crashes, 57 percent occur on U.S. highways and nearly 50 people die per day as a result. Naturally, each road has its own respective track record when it comes to safety, and some roads are more dangerous than others.”
For the study, Ascienzo looked at three criteria — fatal crashes per vehicle miles traveled per capital, fatalities per crash and the percentage of fatal, nonvehicle collisions that occurred — in determining the 50 most dangerous roads. Other factors that were assessed and considered include local EMS response times and the percentage of accidents that involved drunken drivers.
“Fatal crashes per (vehicle-miles-traveled) per capita allowed us to take local ridership into account, fatalities per crash allowed us to see where the deadliest crashes occur on average, and the percentage of fatal nonvehicle collisions allowed us to take into account safety risks on each road that don't result from dealing with other drivers,” Ascienzo said in the explanation of the study's methodology.
For all of U.S. 82, the study recorded 122 fatality wrecks for the seven-year period, with 157 fatalities. Grayson county saw 16, or 13.1 percent, of the fatal wrecks occur within its borders.
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Of the fatality wrecks, 33.9 percent, slightly above the national average of 28.7 percent, involved a drunken driver, and 92.6 percent were vehicle collisions.
“What this tells me about the road is that it made the list due to the number of fatalities per crash,” Ascienzo said.
The study found that U.S. Hwy. 93 in Arizona ranked as the most dangerous in the list with 70 fatal crashes and 90 fatalities, followed by State Road 9 in Oklahoma. Texas had two roadways in the top 10, with Interstate 10 in Harris County ranked 5th followed by Interstate 20 in Dallas County ranked 6th.
Dallas County saw two additional roadways — U.S. Hwy. 175 and Interstate 20 — make the top 50 list, while Harris County also saw U.S. Hwy. 59 and U.S. Hwy. 290 make the list.
Clay Barnett, executive director of the Sherman-Denison Metropolitan Planning Organization, said he was surprised when he learned the highway had been included on a list of dangerous roadways.
He questioned some of the study's methodology, noting that the reliance on per capital numbers can skew the results toward smaller, more rural areas placing them higher than more populous areas. In the study, Interstate 5 in Los Angeles County saw the most fatalities, with 768 — more than triple the top three highways combined — but is only ranked fourth.
“I take a little bit of an exception on how he got to that conclusion by dividing by population,” he said.
Barnett also noted that the highway has seen safety improvements in recent years, including some that went into place after the study period. As an example, Barnett said a project to complete the roadway as a four-lane highway recently was completed. Before the project, traffic east of Sherman would be diverted onto the service road for a brief stretch before returning to the roadway.
Similarly, the Texas Department of Transportation has also recently worked on converting portions of the roadway to what Barnett referred to as “special twos.” Under this configuration, additional passing lanes have been added throughout the route to allow traffic to pass by slower vehicles safely. Barnett said he was uncertain if any of these features are in Grayson County, noting that the route is a four-lane roadway throughout the county.
TxDOT Paris District Engineer Noel Paramanantham said the district recently awarded a contract to widen the roadway to four lanes from Bonham through Lamar and Red River counties to the end of the district's boundary. Meanwhile, another district is considering plans to widen the road all the way to Interstate 3o.
Barnett also noted that the inclusion of 11 Texas roadways in the study could cast Texas as an unsafe state while ignoring the context of the high number of roadway miles across the nation's second largest, and second most populous, state.
TxDOT Paris District Public Information Officer Tim McAlavy said the department as also instituted other upgrades on the roadway in recent years beyond just the closure of the gap east of Sherman. To the west, the department has added cable barriers between the east and west main lanes, while also adding rumble strips to the roadway throughout its length to alert drivers who are drifting onto the shoulder.
“We also review the crash reports on a quarterly basis by county and by road to look at ways to improve safety,” he said.