Interstate 45 tops the list of the county’s 13 deadliest highways, more than doubling the number of fatal crashes elsewhere in the last six years, state officials said.
Texas Department of Transportation reports obtained by The Daily News showed 198 people died in 179 fatal crashes in Galveston County since Jan. 1, 2008. Speed or alcohol most often contributed to those accidents.
Meanwhile, strained budgets and increased calls for service have led to fewer officers assigned to traffic enforcement on parts of the freeway, which is patrolled by municipalities, troopers with the Department of Public Safety and sheriff’s deputies.
Sheriff Henry Trochesset said he reassigned four traffic enforcement deputies to cover increased calls for service in the Bayshore area of Bacliff and San Leon, which was previously patrolled by one officer.
“We couldn’t answer calls with just one deputy there,” Trochesset said. “With the call volume, that resource was needed more in Bayshore than I-45.”
The La Marque Police Department also experienced staffing constraints, police Sgt. Shawn Spruill said, but both La Marque police and the sheriff’s office continue to patrol I-45 as call volume allows.
League City’s seven Traffic Division officers and troopers from the Department of Public Safety regularly patrol I-45, but slowing freeway commuter traffic is not as easy as enforcement efforts in town, where drivers are more accustom to seeing police daily, League City police officer Jennafer Woitena said.
“We steadily hit the freeway often and knock down speeders,” Woitena said. “It’s deadly when it’s raining. We go on the freeway with lights on, and folks tend to slow down.”
Fatality crashes in League City most often happen at night with intoxicated or sleepy drivers, Woitena said. Officers also patrol early mornings between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. when bar and strip club patrons leave, she said.
Troopers and other law enforcement agencies also focus on peak traffic times, such as rush hours and holidays.
Programs that provide money to pay officers overtime, such as Click It or Ticket and no-refusal weekends during holidays, are also successful in curtailing speeding and drunken driving, authorities say.
“We do some type of enforcement on I-45 daily,” Sgt. John Sampa of the Department of Public Safety said. “Will they’re always be somebody on 45? Yes and no. We cover the county with a 10-man duty station.”