HOUSTON — More pedestrians are taking their chances and dying on Texas roads than in years past.
KHOU 11 Investigates found one of the most driven streets in Houston is also one of the deadliest for pedestrians — Westheimer Road.
Westheimer west of the Galleria is lined with businesses and many locals get to them on foot. It only took a few minutes on a Wednesday afternoon to see why this street is dangerous.
Several people dodged traffic across the eight-lane road during lunchtime.
“I’m on break from lunch and everything. So, I'm trying to get Chick-fil-A and go back to work really quick,” pedestrian Jacarius Johnson said.
Nicole Drake said she has also skipped the crosswalk to save time.
“Because that’s extra walking,” Drake said.
KHOU 11 Investigates analyzed Texas Department of Transportation crash data and found last year 212 pedestrians died in Greater Houston, including in Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery and Waller counties. That’s up 48% from 2018.
Yearly Pedestrian Deaths
- 2018: 143
- 2019: 176
- 2020: 180
- 2021: 212
- 2022: (Jan-March) 58
Total = 769
Overall, 769 people were killed from 2018 until March of this year. Sixteen of those deaths happened on a stretch of Westheimer Road between Fountain View and Fondren Road.
TxDOT Traffic Safety Specialist Matthew DeLeon says the news comes as no surprise.
“Westheimer is one of the country’s areas of high pedestrian crashes because it is a very wide highway,” DeLeon said.
It is the reason some drivers say they use extra caution there.
“Usually, I drive slower through there than you are supposed to,” Priscilla Bellazaba said.
Another driver, Early Rodriguez said: “At this corner, I had a very, a very close call.”
Other hotspots for pedestrian deaths include:
- Gulf Freeway and 610 — 14 deaths since 2018
- Highway 6, from Westheimer Road to Katy Freeway — 13 deaths
- Intersection of I-45 and 1960 — 10 deaths
In many of these accidents, the pedestrian is at least partially at fault.
In 70% of these crashes, traffic investigators noted pedestrians failed to yield to drivers, which includes jaywalking, standing in the middle of the road or using a crosswalk on red.
“I think the biggest obstacle we’re seeing is a lot of people are just crossing the street, not being aware of traffic,” DeLeon said.
TxDOT hopes to tackle the problem with online safety campaigns encouraging pedestrians to make smarter choices.
“We understand the mentality. So, we have to look at it from a humanized perspective,” DeLeon said.
Some pedestrians darting through traffic on Westheimer appeared to be catching on.
“I need to take more precautions and not do that anymore,” Johnson said.
“I’ll walk over to the light,” Drake said.
TxDOT recently started adding barriers to sections of I-69 to keep pedestrians from crossing.
DeLeon said the state has also invited Harris County and the City of Houston to join them in coming up with new ways to keep pedestrians safe on the road.