DFW (CBS 11 NEWS)– It’s a scene played out across the Metroplex every morning – tens of thousands of people crank up their car and hit the highway to head into work.
But a Bedford man who left for work one morning never made it home and how he died could point to a larger problem.
Here in North Texas construction sites on highways seem to pop up almost overnight. At times, it may seem like you can’t escape them, no matter which way you drive. But they’re not only annoying, they’re deadly. And when CBS’s I-Team Investigator Mireya Villarreal ran the numbers, one county stood out.
Sam Torres was driving to work on the morning of October 11, 2011. The 27-year-old was a teacher who had big dreams of becoming a minister one day. But those dreams were never realized because on the morning of the 11th Torres was involved in a deadly accident near the intersection of Highway 121 and Highway 183 in Hurst.
“There is no place to go,” Jorge Torres, Sam’s father, told us. “If somebody cuts in front of you, you either hit the vehicle or hit the barrier. Or, like in the case of my son, he lost control of the vehicle and then he got run over.”
More than a year after Sam’s death his family is still grieving. Every morning when Jorge goes to work he drives the on same road where his son died. And every morning he wonders who might be next.
“Do you think it’s safe enough for drivers,” Mireya Villarreal asked.
“No. Oh no. You have to be extra careful,” Jorge answered. “It’s very congested and very dangerous.”
Jorge is right.
The I-Team requested information about construction-related crashes in North Texas.
Data from the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) shows that in 2012 Denton, Collin, Parker and Ellis County saw fewer than 900 accidents combined. Dallas County recorded nearly 2,446 accidents with nine deaths in 2012 spread out around the county.
But the number that stood out came from Tarrant County. It had 3,048 accidents where construction played a part.
>> More Info <<
- Construction Accident Locations 2011-2012 (Excel Spreadsheet)
- NTE Accident Data Summary (Excel Spreadsheet)
The I-Team also looked into the number of fatal accidents in Tarrant County for the last few years. In 2011 there were thirteen deadly crashes that seemed to be scattered across the county. In 2012 there were another thirteen deaths related to construction; however, in that year there was a clear cluster of accidents that happened near Interstate 820, Highway 121 and Highway 183. That’s the same area where Sam Torres died.
Sergeant Billy Keadle is in charge of the Traffic Division for Hurst PD.
“Really it’s been the lane changes and the detours that have caused people issues,” Keadle explained.
Since 2010, when construction began, Keadle and his crew have been on the front line.
CBS’s Mireya Villarreal asked, “Obviously, we’ve seen a big increase in the number of accidents in Tarrant County in the last year. What would be the reason for this increase?”
“Of course it’s the construction. And then you add in drivers who are distracted, drivers who are going too fast, drivers who are following too closely, you add all that together and you get this increase,” Keadle said.
Instead of discussing this issue on camera with us, the Texas Department of Transportation referred us to a press release posted on its website. On it, TXDOT’s executive director admitted they’ve seen an increase in work zone crashes and to try and fix the problem they planned to ramp up their educational efforts and increase law enforcement efforts through DPS agents.
But that’s cold comfort for Jorge Torres, who believes his son would still be here if better safeguards were in place. He chose to share Sam’s story, hoping other drivers will realize just how dangerous these construction zones are.
“Even though we know he’s in a better place, for us it’s just been difficult. We miss him a lot,” Jorge noted.
Sergeant Keadle and TXDOT both tell us drivers also play a big role in these accidents. In fact, in 40 to 50 percent of those construction-related accidents, drivers were either speeding or distracted.
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