A group intending to improve safety along U.S. 290 near Dripping Springs is claiming some success – though they say more work still needs to be done.
Sarah Kline, president of the 290 Safety Coalition and Texas Freedom Drivers, said negotiations with elected representatives and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) have resulted in a planned speed limit reduction on the highway from 60 mph to 55 from Nutty Brown Road to the Dripping Springs city limit. Additionally, she said, another constable is to be added for enforcement and a traffic light will be installed at the highway’s intersection with Traitwein.
Between 2010 and 2019, there were six fatalities on Hwy. 290 between Trautwein and Nutty Brown Road with the 60 mph speed limit.
Kline said the new speed limit signs will be going up soon, and TxDOT has said it will install a temporary light at Trautwein and Hwy. 290 until the former can be leveled.
“Right now it (Trautwein) is a steep hill. At first, TxDOT was saying they were not able to install the light, “but because of so much support and pressure from the community they said they would install a temporary light until Trautwein is leveled.” That light, she said, should be going up by the end of the year.
“The coalition started a little less than a year ago,” she said, and grew to include Pct. 4 Commissioner Walt Smith, Constable Ron Hood and State Rep. Erin Zwiener.
She said Hood was instrumental in calling attention to the dangers along the highway. “A lot of people speed and there’s a lot of reckless driving. We had Ron Hood do a presentation on the dangers.”
Kline said she spoke to the commissioners court during its budget process “about the need for more enforcement” and the commissioners and County Judge Ruben Becerra responded.” I spoke when they did the budget and they budgeted” the extra constable to assign to the area, as well as an motorcycle and a vehicle. The last is important, she said, “because we want the officer to be able to do enforcement rain or shine.”
The group is still trying to get more done regarding distracted driving, which Kline said is causing more accidents than drunk driving.
“Distracted driving is a really interesting problem,” she said, in part because of the way Texas law is written. Though it’s against the law to text and drive, she noted that it’s perfectly legal for people to check their phones for directions, something she described as a “loophole.”
“We need to make Texas a ‘hands free’ state,” she said, adding that her group is encouraging the passage of legislation when the Texas Legislature convenes again.
“We want to bring awareness and we want to make it so officers can enforce” the law. Currently, officers are prohibited from looking at a driver’s phone to see what it was being used for. “We want to make it so victims are able to get justice,” she said.
For more on the group and its mission, visit texasfreedomdrivers.com and 290safety.com.