Truck accidents on Texas freeways — from the Rio Grande Valley and Laredo to San Antonio to El Paso — continue to leave a legacy of death, paralysis, closed-head brain damage and other personal injuries for numerous innocent victims. NAFTA, with its ever-increasing Mexico truck traffic, is expected to usher in a frightful lot of substandard, older Mexican trucks onto our Texas highways and byways. In fact, according to the San Antonio Toll Party’s recent article quoting legal analyst Noah Sachs (http://satollparty.com/post/?p=293), “Mexican trucks…are generally older, more polluting, and less safe than their U.S. counterparts”; and “eighty to ninety percent of the Mexican truck fleet was manufactured before 1994.” I suggest that it is only a matter of time before Mexico’s more unsafe trucks — driven by their drivers with little, if any, formal training in American truck safety rules and regulations — render the southernmost sector of I-35, the future I-69 in the Rio Grande Valley, as well as the El Paso sector of I-10, all into virtual incubators of personal injury death,paralysis and brain damage injuries — and routes to be avoided.
Already, “[a]lmost 5,000 people are killed each year in truck-related crashes. Because of their size and often dangerous payloads, automobile accidents involving commercial trucks are devastating to pedestrians and occupants of other vehicles.” Public Citizen’s “Truck Safety” (http://www.citizen.org/autosafety/Truck_Safety/index.cfm) (emphasis added). As Mexican truck traffic increasingly goes through Laredo — as well as through Brownsville, McAllen, Rio Grande City and the entire Rio Grande Valley — and via Eagle Pass, Del Rio, El Paso and other Texas ports-of-entry, expect more Texas car accidents with Mexican camiones.
Stretching some 1,700 miles from Laredo, Texas on the Mexico border, and then all the way to Canada, Interstate 35 has made Laredo the trucking industry’s gateway from Mexico and the rest of Central America into the United States. As a result, “[a]long…IH 35 from Mexico to Canada, the highest levels of fatalities, the worst congestion, the slowest average speed per mile, the lowest levels of service and the highest levels of air pollution all occur in the Austin-San Antonio Corridor” just up the road from Laredo. 2003 Annual Report of the Austin-San Antonio Intermunicipal Commuter Rail District (http://asarail.org/ASA_Annual_Report.pdf), quoting the Federal Highway Administration-Funded Study, 1999 (emphasis added). With greater truck traffic only increasing the frequency of truck-car accidents, expect a dramatic increase in severe personal injuries — paralysis, brain damage, and even death — fromcatastrophic truck accidents, especially where traffic is heaviest — the Rio Grande Valleyand Laredo to San Antonio, and El Paso inward into the U.S.
Let me share with you this brief history: A 1982 U.S. ban kept Mexican trucks off most of the highways of Texas and other states, leaving truck accidents to the domestic trucking industry. However, even after NAFTA — the North American Free Trade Agreement — took effect in 1994, the ban held until a 2004 U.S. Supreme Court ruling removed the ban and opened wide the gates to Mexican truck traffic. Despite valiant efforts by consumer organizations concerned about truck accidents, car accidents, exhaust pollution and other public-safety issues, eventually Mexico-based trucks were allowed freely onto Texas roads. That is today’s sad reality — leaving us all at greater risk of car-truck accidents.