By Jeff Salzgeber
At just 14 years old, Alexei Bauereis was struck and killed while walking his bike across a crosswalk in Austin, cutting short his young life and promising ballet career.
“He was on the verge of that stage where you find out how you stack up against professionals,” Alexei’s dad Eric Bauereis said.
Alexei is just one of many tragic deaths on Texas roads every year. Each one takes someone special from their family, friends and community. This spring, as warm weather brings out pedestrians and cyclists, TxDOT and the Bauereis family are reminding drivers why it’s important to follow traffic safety laws, including stopping for pedestrians in crosswalks.
“We have a shared responsibility to every member of our community — to every family and every individual — to help reverse these trends and reduce traffic fatalities in Texas,” said TxDOT Executive Director Marc Williams. “We’re asking all Texans to watch out for one another whether you’re behind the wheel, on foot, or on a bike. Obeying traffic safety laws is a critical first step.”
In 2021, 935 people died in pedestrian and bicyclist-related traffic crashes in Texas, accounting for one out of every five of the 4,496 fatalities on state roadways. In the five-year period from 2017 to 2021, pedestrian fatalities resulting from traffic crashes increased 34 percent, and bicyclist fatalities increased 58 percent.
TxDOT’s “Be Safe. Drive Smart.” campaign urges all Texans to know and follow the laws for safe driving, walking and biking. That includes the Lisa Torry Smith Act, which went into effect in 2021.
Named after a Texas mom who was struck and killed in a crosswalk while walking her six-year-old son to school, the law requires drivers to stop and yield the right of way to people in crosswalks. Motorists who fail to stop and yield and cause serious injury to someone in a crosswalk can face criminal penalties.
Texas law states that if you’re driving:
• Stop and yield for pedestrians, bicyclists and other vulnerable road users in crosswalks.
• When turning, yield the right of way to pedestrians and bicyclists.
• Pass bikes at a safe distance and give bicyclists room to ride.
If you’re walking:
• Cross the street only at intersections and crosswalks.
• Obey all traffic signs and signals, including at crosswalks.
• Use sidewalks. If there’s no sidewalk, walk on the left side of the road, facing oncoming traffic.
If you’re riding a bike:
• Always stop at red lights and stop signs.
• Ride in the same direction as traffic and use bike lanes or ride as near as possible to the right-hand curb.
• Use hand signals when turning or stopping.
• At night, make sure your bike has a white light on the front and a red light or reflector on the back.
TxDOT’s “Be Safe. Drive Smart.” campaign and pedestrian and bicyclist safety initiative are key components of #EndTheStreakTX, a broader social media and word-of-mouth effort that encourages drivers to make safer choices while behind the wheel to help end the streak of daily deaths. Nov. 7, 2000 was the last deathless day on Texas roadways.