I-45: The Nation’s Deadliest Highway Is in Houston, TX

Houston motorists beware: you’re driving on some of the most dangerous roadways in the country. Not only is Houston home to I-45, the deadliest highway in the United States, but it is also home to 3 of the 10 deadliest road segments in Texas.

What is it that makes these Houston roads so dangerous? Let’s take a closer look.

About Interstate 45 (I-45)

Interstate 45 is an intrastate highway that extends all the way from the Gulf of Mexico to Dallas, crossing through Galveston and Houston on the way. The route is maintained by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and is 284.913 miles long.

The stretch of I-45 that connects Houston and Galveston is also known as the Gulf Freeway. It was the first freeway to be built in the state, opening in sections starting in 1948. Construction on the North Freeway, which starts in Downtown Houston and extends to Conroe, first began in 1959. The final pieces of I-45, extending from Conroe to Richland and then Richland to Dallas, were completed in the 1970s. Most of the final stretches of I-45 were built over U.S. Highway 75.

I-45 is currently the subject of controversy because of the North Houston Highway Improvement Project, a $9+ billion proposal to rebuild and widen a stretch of I-45 from Downtown Houston to Beltway 8. Harris County filed suit against TxDOT in March 2021 amid concerns over displacing hundreds of people and negatively impacting air quality in the area. The federal lawsuit was placed on hold in November 2021; negotiations are still underway as of the time of this writing.

1-45 also gained notoriety back in 2005 when Hurricane Rita struck the Houston area. Thousands tried to flee the city and its suburbs, turning I-45 into a parking lot. Gas stations ran out of gas, leaving motorists stranded on the highway to spend the night on the shoulder. I-45 remains a crucial hurricane evacuation route today.

Fatal Accidents on I-45

At the end of 2021, the insurance company Budget Direct released an article titled “The Most Deadly Roads in Every Country,” using statistics from government websites, news reports, and publications to identify the deadliest roads across the planet. In the United States, I-45 ranked #1.

According to the article, “The most deadly road in the United States is Interstate 45, running north from Galveston to Dallas through Houston, Texas. This road has seen 56.5 fatal accidents for every 100 miles of roadway, thanks to a combination of busy, urban stretches and driver complacency.”

What’s more, 2 stretches of I-45 made the list of the 10 deadliest roads in Texas.

Researchers from MoneyGeek analyzed more than 10,000 fatal traffic accidents in Texas from 2017 to 2019 to uncover the deadliest stretches of road in the state. Three Houston roadways came up in the results, two of which were stretches of Interstate 45.

The 5-mile stretch of I-45 from Exit 63 (Airtex Drive) to Metro TX 249 came in sixth on the list, with 12 fatal accidents in total and 2.4 fatal accidents per mile.

The 5-mile stretch on I-45 from Rte. 5 to Exit 50 (Cavalcade) ranked 10th on the list of deadly roadways with 11 fatal accidents, coming out to 2.3 per mile.

Not only was I-45 the deadliest road in Harris County from 2017 to 2019, with 38 fatal accidents, but the percentage of fatal crashes involving drunk drivers was 30%. The state average was 25%.

Houston Outpaces All of Texas for Deadly Traffic Accidents

According to the most recent statistics from TxDOT, Houston outpaced Texas with a 20% increase in fatal crashes from 2020 to 2021.

Across Texas in 2021, there were 4,100 fatal traffic collisions; these accidents claimed 4,480 lives. These numbers represent a 14% increase from 2020, which had 3,578 fatal crashes and 3,932 fatalities.

In Houston, there were 330 traffic accident fatalities in 2021, a 20% increase from 275 in 2020.

When you look closely at the overall number of crashes, you can see just how deadly Houston’s traffic accidents can be. Texas saw an increase of nearly 16% in the overall number of motor vehicle accidents from 2020 to 2021, while in Houston, the increase was 14%.

Although the total number of Houston crashes did not increase as much as in Texas, the number of fatal accidents increased more. This must be due in no small part to the hazards presented by driving on I-45, particularly those two five–mile stretches from Airtex Dr. to TX 249 and Rte. 5 to Cavalcade.

What We Can Do About It

Houston’s proclivity to fatal traffic accidents has not gone unnoticed. Every other day, someone dies and three people suffer life-altering injuries in Houston traffic accidents. These numbers are shocking and simply unacceptable.

Vision Zero Houston has pledged to end traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030 by prioritizing “safety and accessibility in street design for people of all ages and abilities,” using “a comprehensive and holistic approach to safer streets that supports the common good and enhances the quality of life for all Houstonians.” Roads that are designed and maintained with safety in mind will go a long way in protecting not only drivers and their passengers but also pedestrians and cyclists as well. Every person deserves to feel safe moving around the city.

As a motorist, the best thing you can do to protect yourself from becoming a statistic is to be aware of your surroundings (never drive while distracted or under the influence), obey traffic laws, and drive defensively. Properly maintaining your vehicle is also important. Unfortunately, even when we do everything we can to protect ourselves and our family members, accidents happen. They happen when other drivers aren’t paying attention, when 18-wheelers are negligently operated or maintained, or when roadways themselves are dangerous or defective.

At Arnold & Itkin, we stand for people in Houston and throughout Texas who have been harmed or have lost loved ones in accidents on I-45 or any roadway. Our team of Houston motor vehicle accident attorneys is known nationwide for securing unmatched results for survivors and families affected by car, truck, motorcycle, and all other traffic accidents. We fight for the answers and recoveries our clients need to rebuild. No matter what.

To find out how we can help you, call (888) 493-1629 or contact us online.

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