Texas roads, like a great deal of the infrastructure in the United States, are not in good condition. According to transportation research group TRIP, poorly maintained Texas roads cost $25.1 billion a year of additional vehicle operating costs. In 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave the Lone Star State’s roads and highways a D grade, the same grade it assigned the state in 2012. The ASCE’s infrastructure report card examines factors like road conditions, maintenance, and safety to generate that score. Likewise, the US Department of Transportation estimates that 38 percent of all Texas highways are in poor condition.
Unfortunately, poorly designed and maintained road networks can lead to a significant increase in dangerous accidents. Road hazards, crumbling highways, and neglected upkeep all pose dangers for motorists and nearby residents.
Part of the reason Texas roads are so poorly maintained is the sheer volume of roadway in the state. Texas has hundreds of thousands of miles of roadway, over two-thirds of which are off-system, meaning they are not maintained by TXDoT. Instead these roads are left to the oversight of local governments, which may have wildly different maintenance budgets and infrastructural priorities. According to the ASCE, rural highways in particular tend to have surpassed their design life, making them a hazard to motorists.
How Do Poorly Maintained Roads Contribute to Accidents?
Poorly maintained roads can both directly and indirectly contribute to accidents. Some accidents are due to the condition of the roads themselves: potholes, crumbling roadways, and fading or missing road markers.
Poor signage is another risk factor. Improperly designed or signposted roadways can cause drivers to make poor choices, leading to collisions. Malfunctioning stop lights may also contribute to serious accidents.
Additionally, deficient road systems can cause flooding when drainage on road networks is inadequate. According to a report compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, almost 400 people drown every year while driving or riding in vehicles.
Infrastructure advocacy group Pothole.info claims that a third of all traffic fatalities are due to substandard road networks. A study released by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) puts the number even higher, stating that an astounding half of all traffic fatalities, or roughly 22,000 deaths annually, are caused by deficient roadways. Additionally, according to PIRE, around 38 percent of all non-fatal motor vehicle accident injuries are due to inadequately maintained roadways.
Maintaining Roads Is the Government’s Responsibility
For the most part, it is the responsibility of state or local governments to maintain adequate road conditions. When these entities fail to live up to these obligations and that negligence causes an accident, they can be held liable for damages.
However, obtaining compensation from the government in these cases can be difficult. You will need to prove that the government both knew about the maintenance issue and failed to take action to remedy it — or that the issue had been a problem long enough that the government should have known about it. In many instances, the government can be outright immune from liability, even when they knew or should have known about a dangerous roadway condition.
Proving the government’s liability typically requires a great deal of evidence. For instance, you may need to obtain copies of roadway surveys and departmental documents that show that the government failed to act. You may have to take witness statements from nearby residents who can testify when the problem first appeared. Because of the burden of proof required in these cases, many accident victims choose to consult with a personal injury auto accident lawyer. A qualified attorney can help you understand what kind of evidence you need to prove your case and will have the professional confidence needed to stand up to government officials, insurance agents, and other defendants in your case.
At FVF, we have over 70 years of accident experience between our team members and maintain an excellent reputation among Austin auto accident lawyers. That experience in our field gives us the assurance and expertise needed to pursue accident cases with tenacity and a deep commitment to our clients’ welfare. To learn whether you may have a case for legal action, contact us today for a free consultation.