A plea for the Disney World monorail
Is everyone in Houston a bad driver? Ruminations on our accident prone ways
Houstonians are 29.5 percent more likely to have a vehicle collision than drivers in other major United States cities, according to a recent report by the Allstate insurance company.
When faced with statistics — especially statistics that reflect negatively on our city — we tend to point a critical eye at the method of data collection. Allstate press reps informed CultureMap that their report does not factor in the number of hours motorists spend in their cars. If Houstonians are on the road twice as much as New York drivers, wouldn’t it logically follow that we would experience more fender-benders?
According to the U.S. Census, the predominant form of transportation in Houston is the automobile with 71.7 percent of Bayou City residents driving alone to work. With ever-growing urban sprawl, this work commute is often a long one and involves congested highways.
Luckily insurance rates do not necessarily increase simply because you live in a city with a higher occurrence of collisions, reassures Allstate spokesperson Kristen Beaman. “The point of the study is to raise awareness and promote safe driving. That means putting down the phone and keeping your eyes on the road,” Bearman says. She reiterates that personal driving history is the most significant factor in determining an insurance rate.
The Allstate report ranks America's 200 largest cities in terms of car collision frequency to identify which cities have the safest drivers. Although higher than the national average, in comparison to other Texas towns, the Bayou City isn’t doing so bad. Houston motorists are safer than those in Austin, San Antonio and Dallas. (The nation’s two worst cities are Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.)
The good news is vehicle collisions have decreased over the last few years, though accident fatalities still hover around an alarming 40,000 every year according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Some blame the METRO light rail (or the “light bus” as some have called it, insisting, “Trains don’t stop at stoplights!”) for Houston car wrecks.
The high-profile light rail collisions are a reason to expand — not eliminate — the rail. With fewer drivers on the road and greater visibility, the train would function with less worry of crashes. Ultimately, an elevated rail (a la Disney World’s monorail) would best serve our city, in part because the water content of our soil makes a subway system unrealistic. An elevated rail would eliminate the need to stop at traffic lights and allow cars to pass safely beneath it. In the early 1990s, then-Mayor Kathy Whitmire touted such a monorail system for Houston, but it never happened.
Unfortunately technological glories like this cost a pretty penny and are perhaps best left to the dreamy land of Mickey Mouse.