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AUSTIN, Texas -- A bill that the state House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee debated about Tuesday could put millions of Texans at risk on the road. House Bill 19, introduced by Rep. Jeff Leach, would alter state laws concerning citizens’ rights following a crash with a commercial vehicle. The bill would essentially shield careless corporations from the consequences of their actions when they put fleets of commercial vehicles on the roads.
Texas owns the dubious distinction of having more large truck crashes than any other state in the nation in each of the last four years. In 2019, Texas had more large truck crashes than the neighboring states of Colorado, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Arizona, Mississippi, Nebraska, Kansas, and New Mexico combined. The number of truck crashes in Texas increased 27 percent from 2016 to 2019. Texas tops other states in number of truck wreck fatalities (2019): Texas had 685 fatalities. Next closest was California at 463 and Florida at 282.Texas has had the most large truck crashes in the country for the last five years running, from 2016-2020.
A group of safe streets advocates, consumer advocates, legal reformers and crash victims has formed a coalition, called the Texas Coalition for Safe Streets, specifically to oppose this bill, which they say would endanger all Texans on the road.
Kathy Sokolic, Chair of Central Texas Families for Safe Streets, said “Families dealing with one of the most tragic events of their lives are already trying to get things back together after a crash. Any legislation regarding crashes should be focused on helping the victims and reducing these crashes in the future. ”
“The last thing our dangerous roads need is a cost saving measure for wrong-doers,” said Bill Cardamon, State Executive Director for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). “As my parents taught me when I was four, consequences change behaviors, so it’s important that we maintain high penalties for negligent, reckless, and careless conduct by companies that put fleets of vehicles on the roads.”
Bay Scoggin, who helped organize the coalition as director of the consumer advocacy organization TexPIRG, added that this bill would pervert the incentives designed to keep companies accountable, “Litigation is consumers’ last resort, but it’s currently our most important deterrent to deadly negligence and wrong doing by commercial vehicle companies.”
Ware Wendell, Executive Director of Texas Watch, stated, “Texas already has the most dangerous roads in the nation. This legislation will only put all of us at greater threat. We need to improve safety, not give careless corporations less incentive to follow the rules of the road.”
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