Texas State Highway 315 has become one of the most dangerous highways in the Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas area in the last decade, and those familiar with the area say semi trucks taking a shortcut are to blame.
The most dangerous portion of State Highway 315 connects the east Texas towns of Carthage and Mount Enterprise. The 26 mile stretch of highway has seen 462 crashes since 2012. In those wrecks, 463 people were injured, 48 of those were serious injuries, and 36 people were killed. Of the 462 crashes, 23 were deadly, and half of these deadly crashes involved semi trucks. Of the 36 people killed over the last decade, 22 of them died in semi truck related wrecks. There were a total of 113 semi truck related wrecks on the stretch of Highway 315 in the last ten years. Trucker fatigue, speed, or traveling in the wrong lane were found to be factors in all fatal wrecks involving semi trucks since 2012 along the 26 mile stretch of road, TxDOT reports.
Locals say that many people, truckers and motorists alike, use Highway 315 as a shortcut to Nacogdoches or Houston because it can cut more than 10 minutes off their trip, partially because of the 70 mph speed limit they say is rarely even enforced.
“It got really bad after 2008 because almost every vehicle was getting GPS or smartphones,” said David Aguilar, who works & lives off 315 and watches hundreds of tractor trailers pass by his sawmill every day.
“I have a CDL license and have driven some pretty large vehicles, and knowing 315, I would not save that 11-minutes. I’d stay on the bigger highway,” said Ken Stone, a pastor at a church along the highway.
Since witnessing a deadly wreck himself, Stone has been contacting lawmakers in an attempt to make the roadway safer. He wants the speed limit lowered, and traffic lights installed at the County Road 106 and Farm Road 95 intersections.
“The least thing — lower the speed limit. What does that cost? Change a few signs, you know, that say 70. Change them to 55,” he said.
KSLA reports that TxDOT performed speed studies along the stretch of highway in 2016 and 2018, but found that “the study results did not warrant an adjustment to the speed limit.”
Despite TxDOT’s disagreement with the need for change on Highway 315, Stone says he believes making the highway a safer place is part of his calling.
“How do you put a price on a life? You don’t. How do you put a price on an eternity? You don’t,” said Stone. “He turns the hearts of kings, so he can turn the legislature or TXDOT of whatever has to happen to get these things in place.”