It was Cinco de Mayo, and central Texas resident Wyona Cardy — known as Cookie to friends and family — was heading home after a night out. Safely stopped at a red light, Cardy — as well as drivers and passengers in three other vehicles around her — had no time to recognize the danger they faced, as a tow truck raced toward the line of cars. Gary Randall Dilworth, the tow truck driver, thought little of the intersection — or the people and cars patiently waiting — as he plowed into the vehicles, causing irreparable damage.
While other drivers’ injuries were treated on the scene, Cardy was rushed to the emergency room with severe injuries. After suffering two full weeks, Cookie — who was a beloved office administrator, mother, and friend — passed away in a hospital bed.
Meanwhile, Dilworth, the tow truck driver, was found to be driving under the influence; in his vehicle, officers found drug paraphernalia and a controlled substance. Consequently, Dilworth has been arrested on a charge of intoxication manslaughter with a motor vehicle — an offense that is unique to Texas.
Unfortunately, this story is not exceptional. Though Cookie Cardy and the others at the intersection suffered greatly, thousands of other Texans have experienced misfortune due to improper truck operation. In fact, Texas is the most dangerous state for drivers, boasting the highest number of roadway fatalities, the highest percentage of collisions involving drunk drivers, and the largest number of trucking accidents in the country. Perhaps it is time for Texans to reevaluate their driving culture.
Texas Worst for Roadway Fatalities and Trucking Accidents
According to a National Security Council review released in November 2016, across the U.S. more than 38,000 people died from road-related accidents in 2015 — which marked a 6 percent increase over the year prior. This was a significant jump; between 2013 and 2014, roadway deaths increased just 0.5 percent, and between 2012 and 2013, the rate of roadway fatalities actually dropped by 3 percent.
Nationwide, these statistics are of significant concern, but Texas boasts even more alarming data. The Lone Star State claims the highest rate of auto accident deaths in the nation, with 13.1 fatalities for every 100,000 people. The Texas Department of Transportation asserts that a traffic accident will kill a person every 2.5 hours — and injure someone every two minutes. In 15 years, not a day has gone by without a Texan dying from a traffic-related accident.
While some might blame Texas’ size for its high ranking for roadway accidents, existing evidence refutes this. For one, California boasts 44 percent more people than Texas, but the Golden State claims 300 fewer roadway fatalities per year. Further, state officials note a driving culture that de-emphasizes safety and encourages drivers to break the law. For example, Texas drivers are less likely to wear seatbelts, even on high-speed highways.
It is also important to note that at least 550 of those traffic fatalities involved large trucks — marking Texas as the leader in trucking accidents, as well. Comparatively, California claims only about 300 trucking-related deaths per year. Some experts suggest Texan big-rig drivers are more negligent than drivers in other states — which might be due, once again, to Texas’s unsafe driving culture.
How to Keep Texas Roads Safer
Passenger car drivers and truckers alike can do much to keep roads safer. Seatbelts, headlights, and other safety features should be employed at all times to keep those inside the vehicle safe. Additionally, drivers should avoid using any intoxicating substances before getting behind the wheel, and distracting devices like cellphones should only be accessed via Bluetooth connections or while safely parked.
As happened with Cookie Cardy, even those who drive safely might suffer from a traffic tragedy. Those involved in accidents should immediately remove vehicles from the roadway and notify the police. If a heavy-duty truck is involved, it might be wise to contact a trucking accident attorney in San Antonio, or another nearby city. Any drivers and passengers should assess their health and wellness, take pictures of the scene, and acquire any information from involved drivers and witnesses.
Texans, especially, should be wary of traffic laws and adhere to speed limits. Even on seemingly isolated, rural roads, the unexpected could pose fatal risks to unsafe drivers, their passengers, and any other vehicles nearby. Never are drivers 100-percent protected from harm, but driving sober and safely is one’s best chance for getting from here to there without incident.