Traffic deaths up almost
40% in area
By TANYA EISERER / Staff Writer
Higher traffic speeds, failure to wear seatbelts, the consumption
of alcohol, fatigue and a lack of attentiveness when driving a
vehicle can be deadly.
The number of traffic fatalities in the Big Country's during
October has reflected that fact. At least 15 people, including
a 13-year-old Abilene boy who was ejected from a vehicle, lost
their lives in fatal accidents.
And the number of accidents don't seem to be decreasing. Already
in the month of November five people have died in wrecks. Four
of those deaths happened near Putnam - just 1-1/2 miles apart
- in Callahan County.
A one-vehicle accident Nov. 1 that killed two people was probably
caused by a young driver who fell asleep at the wheel.
A second accident Wednesday killed two small children who were
ejected from a station wagon in a three-vehicle accident. They
were not wearing seatbelts.
Had the children been buckled in, they probably would have
survived, said Texas Department of Public Safety Cp. Larry Hill.
"You're survival rate increases if you stay in the cabin
area," he said.
Billy Harris, a Baird volunteer firefighter, said Callahan
County has taken a pretty hard beating in the past week.
"FirstFlight's been out here four times since (last) Friday,"
Harris said. "Until we had that wreck Friday, we had not
had our Jaws (of Life) rescue tools out since May 31. It's just
ne of Abilene's worst accidents was in late September, when
two Abilene Christian High School female students died in a one-car
accident on Griffith Road. High speeds played a large part in
the accident, officials said.
"That's the worst I've ever seen," said Abilene Police
Officer Terry Monroe, a motorcycle traffic cop. "Seatbelts
didn't do them any good."
But many of the area's accidents have been taking place out
on the rural roads and highways of West Texas either late at night
or early in the morning.
"That's probably because your speeds are greater in the
rural areas," Hill said. "Every time your speed increases
by 10 mph, you're momentum squares," making stopping that
much more difficult.
Hill added that last year's rise in speed limits to 70 mph
on many state roads is most likely a strong contributing factor
in the increased fatalities.
Last year, in the months of August, September and October,
there were 19 traffic deaths, according to Reporter-News newspaper
In the same period in 1996, there were 26 traffic fatalities
- amounting to about a 37 percent increase in accident deaths,
the accounts showed.
Hill couldn't point to any particular reason traffic deaths
would be so high in October, but he noted that many of them involved
one vehicle. At least nine of those 15 deaths in October were
In many of those accidents, the driver "just looks away
from the road for a moment" and before they know it they've
gone off the road, Hill said.
"If you're moving laterally, you don't have much time
to play with."
Many accidents could be prevented if drivers had paid attention,
Monroe said. "Driving is something you do every day, and
people take it for granted," which can be a fatal mistake
in judgment, Monroe said.
Here are the fatality accidents from October:
-- An elderly man and woman were killed Oct. 4 near Anson at
the intersection of U.S. Highway 80 and Farm Road 600 when their
car collided with a pickup pulling a camper.
-- A 40-year-old Coleman man died Oct. 6 when his Ford pickup
was involved in a head-on collision with a tractor trailer on
U.S. 84 about six miles north of Silver Valley. He was not wearing
-- Three Roby residents were killed Oct. 7 in a two-car head-on
collision four miles west of Roby on U.S. 180. The DPS believed
alcohol was a factor.
-- A 21-year-old Irving man died Oct. 9 in a one-car rollover
four miles west of Snyder when his vehicle left the roadway and
struck the guardrail.
-- An 11-month-old infant was killed Oct. 10 in a single-vehicle
rollover on County Road 333 when the vehicle her mother was learning
to drive ran off the road and overturned.
-- A 73-year-old Coahoma man was driving his pickup down First
Street in Coahoma Oct. 10 when he veered off the road and crashed
into a building.
-- A 28-year-old Abilene man was killed Oct. 12 in a one-car
accident on Highway 16 when his vehicle careened out of control,
ejected him and landed on top of him. Arce was not wearing a seatbelt.
-- Three DeLeon residents were killed Oct. 19 in a one-car
rollover on State Highway 16 five miles south of Interstate 20
and southeast of Ranger.
-- A 38-year-old Abilene man was killed in a one-vehicle rollover
Oct. 22 fives south of Lawn on U.S. 84 when his van rolled over.
Speed was a factor.
-- A 13-year-old Abilene boy was killed Oct. 16 in a one-vehicle
accident when the van he was in went out of control and slammed
into a light pole at the Interstate 20 exit ramp onto State Highway
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