Deadly East Texas roads

By Morgan Chesky - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - We drive roads everyday, from home to work and work to home. But, occasionally our commute is brought to a halt when other drivers crash. We discovered the most dangerous accidents are happening in the same places.

In Smith County, where more than 200,000 people share the roads.

The danger begins on Farm-to-Market Road 14. Winding north from Tyler, the road had six deaths in two years; a stat mirrored by State Highway 110.

Crossing the length of Smith County U.S. 69 and Highway 155 have both seen nine deaths. But, the title of deadliest road in East Texas goes to Highway 31.

"The significant factor is going to be what was the driver of that vehicle doing at the time of the crash," said DPS Trooper Jean Dark.

And, it's not just lights and signs drivers have to worry about, but the trees. They are located, sometimes, just a few feet from the road and in a crash and are unforgiving.

"Maybe in the panhandle or in west might go through somebody's barbed wire fence," said Dark. "However, when you compare that to driving off the road in East Texas the statistics are a whole lot higher."

Despite being one of the smallest East Texas counties, Gregg is one of the most populated and one of the most dangerous. Six deaths happened on Highway 80, but Highway 149 is the deadliest. In the last two years, 11 people have died on the 15 mile stretch.

"Driving is a complicated thing and it requires a lot of skill and a lot of practice," said Dark. "To have a lackadaisical approach to it is what often times leads to these types of crashes happening."

And, authorities warn, with an ill-prepared driver, any East Texas road can become deadly.

In Van Zandt county, Interstate 20 is not included because of the high volume of travelers. Our focus is on Highway 19. Six lives have been lost on the state highway.

In Anderson County, Highway 287 and 294 are the most dangerous, with four lives taken on each. A memorial sits near Highway 294 and County Road 133 honoring three Elkhart teens killed driving home from a football game in September.

In Cherokee County, 10 lives have been taken over a 30-mile stretch of Highway 79.

Three roads in Wood County tied for the title of most dangerous; two of those are farm to market roads.

FM 14 and FM 515 tied with State Highway 154 having four fatalities. In contrast, only one life was lost on Highway 69, a larger roadway.

"Any road can be dangerous dependent upon the driver that's involved," said Dark.

It was a similar story in Rusk County. The two main thoroughfares, Highway 259 and Highway 79, made our list. Both roads are similar in distance and both have seen eight fatalities.

Although Upshur County is the least populated area in our survey, it is surprisingly dangerous. Six lives have been taken on State Highway 155 since 2007. But, U.S. Highway 271's count is higher, with eight. It is a number authorities say can't always be blamed on the road.

"It really is about driver's taking responsibility for their actions because, ultimately, they are the ones responsible," said Dark.

The road is not something that generally changes very much. Technology has made driving safer and shortened emergency response time, but fatal crashes continue to rise a small amount each year.

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