Marc Williams, Texas DoT: 'We need to end this streak of daily death'

Texas DoT’s road safety campaign #EndTheStreakTX is part of a plan to reduce traffic deaths to zero in the Lone Star State by 2050. The agency’s executive director Marc Williams explains why it’s needed…
April 26, 2023
Marc Williams, Texas DoT
Marc Williams, Texas DoT

It’s a sobering fact that the state of Texas has seen at least one person killed every day on the roads since 7 November, 2000. For that reason, Texas DoT created its #EndTheStreakTX campaign in 2015 to raise awareness about a grim run that has impacted families and entire communities across the state.

“The reality is this,” says Texas DoT executive director Marc Williams. “We need to end this streak of daily deaths on Texas roads.”

#EndTheStreakTX began mostly as a grassroots, word-of-mouth campaign. But it has grown, with TxDoT providing more funding to safety projects and dedicating millions of dollars for improvements along Texas roadways.

Team effort required

In May 2019, the Texas Transportation Commission voted to adopt two substantial goals regarding system safety: to halve the number of deaths on Texas roadways by 2035 and to have zero traffic deaths by 2050.

But this will only be achieved with a team effort between TxDoT and drivers themselves.

“It’s a change in behaviour that is needed to help everyone get home safely,” says Williams. “Social media has several platforms that allow us to have conversations with other Texans and to engage them in a way that resonates.”

With more than 325,000 followers on Facebook, more than 450,000 on Twitter and 8 million more on NextDoor, this is clearly happening – not least through celebrity endorsement.

“We all know our sports teams and pro sports players have influence, especially here in Texas,” Williams says. “Getting several of our pro teams involved to partner with us to help share our messages is a big step in reaching as many people as we can - to share messages that stick. We’re lucky because we’ve had great partnerships this past year with several professional teams - from the Texas Rangers and Dallas Cowboys to Nascar driver Joey Logano. We hope it continues.”

NextDoor, in particular, has proven to be an additional valuable asset when it comes to reaching the public. “It’s helped us reach an even broader audience for those who don’t use the traditional social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram,” explains Williams.

Connecting Texas 2050

TxDoT has a vision for where it wants to get to, developing a long-range transportation plan called Connecting Texas 2050. “This is yet another way for us to engage with the public,” Williams explains. “With unprecedented population growth, increasing demands on our transportation system, and technological innovations reimagining how we move, TxDoT wants to hear from the travelling public as the agency looks toward 2050. No matter where you work, live or how you get around, this plan impacts everyone in Texas. That’s why we want to reach out to all Texans to hear their priorities in what transportation will look like in 30 years.”

The agency is organising a state-wide virtual public meeting and regional in-person open houses, and social media posts help get the word out to encourage people to attend those meetings and give their feedback and goals for 2050.

Texas is an incredibly diverse and beautiful state that borders a gulf, holds deserts, forests, mountains, hills and the northern plains where winter weather is common every year. This is a big challenge for TxDoT’s engineers.

“Throughout these different climates, TxDoT is responsible for maintaining 80,000 miles of road and supporting aviation, maritime, rail and public transportation across the state,” Williams concludes.

“Each individual region brings different climate challenges as we work to maintain our infrastructure and build improvements. That’s why we have engineers and experts who work on different strategies throughout the state to make sure our roadways are smooth and safe for the travelling public.”

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