Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Guest Post by Donna Fitzgerald: My Issues With Texas Roadways

I’ve driven 1-35 East, in and around Dallas enough times that some of my experiences were as bad as a “normal” day in Los Angeles traffic. Anyone that’s been stuck in big Texan congestion (particularly during a rare morning rain storm) will agree that traffic congestion is a major danger on Texas roadways. It’s frustrating and confusing and when I’ve brought it up to native Texans, the response is always the same, “It’s always been this way!” What’s worse is that the average driver spends up to 52 hours being stuck in traffic. That’s many people’s PTO!

So, okay, it’s been this way for a long time--to be more accurate, at least 40 years. The major population boom of over 100% is a main culprit for traffic congestion;  that and the fact that extra roads couldn’t be built quickly enough to accommodate such an influx of residents. Even though TxDOT has a plan to reduce the congestion in some of the biggest cities, I don’t see Texas roadways becoming any less dangerous until other changes are made, too.

The Problem with Texting

I hate texting and driving and I’m bothered that Texas is slow to get on board with putting a texting and driving ban on the whole state.   I’m even more disturbed that it’s not illegal to text and drive in major cities like Dallas. While a number of cities have taken on this issue, currently, the only state-wide laws prohibiting texting and driving includes bus drivers (when a passenger is 17 or younger is present), drivers in school crossing zones, and intermediate license holders for the first year.  At least I don’t have to worry about my youngest daughter crossing in a school zone, right?    When I’ve voiced my opinion to some, I am simply reminded, “If you don’t like it, don’t do it”, but it’s hard to ignore.

I used to text and drive and it was a hard habit to break, but after having one too many close calls and suddenly realizing I was a role model for my soon-to-be-licensed daughter, I knew I had to change. While my husband is perfectly content to turn off his phone and put it in the glovebox, I wasn’t going to risk the temptation and had an ignition interlock device installed in our car (to each their own, right?).  Technically, we can still text and drive, especially to pass the time during gridlock (like every other driver), but as a family, we’ve pledged not to.

When my daughter got her license, we wrote up a driving contract and she signed a pledge not to text and drive, even when or if it becomes legal for her. Additionally, she downloaded a texting prevention app on her phone and surprisingly, she’s inspired many of her friends to do the same.
The Congestion Issue

I know that fixing a major congestion issue will take some time and even with the money to pay for it, I shudder at the thought of more construction and re-routing already problematic traffic. While texting and driving is a significant and noticeable issue during gridlock, I’ve also noticed many motorists engaging in a handful of distractions. One morning, I spotted my neighbor shaving his face behind the wheel:  He saw me and smiled sheepishly.

Fortunately, my daily schedule is flexible and I can often plan my trips around the worst times of congestion. In order to plan my day and know what to expect, I check out the Texas Highway Conditions map on a daily basis. My daughter makes fun of me, but without my “heads up” she wouldn’t know what to expect either.

This guest post was written by the author, 
and fellow Texifornian, Donna Fitzgerald.

Pictures by Pixabay