NOV. 27 UPDATE: The two drivers killed in an accident on U.S. 281 on November 26 between Johnson City and Round Mountain have been identified.
Larry Waxler, 36, of Burnet and Phelan Hill, 39, of New Braunfels were both pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
At 6:45 a.m., Waxler, driving a 2018 Ford F150 truck, was traveling southbound on U.S. 281 near mile marker 470, when his truck crossed over into the northbound lane and struck a Toyota vehicle driven by Hill.
The investigation is ongoing, and all contributing factors are currently unknown, according to TxDOT.
PREVIOUS REPORTING: Two people were killed in an accident on U.S. 281 between Johnson City and Round Mountain on Tuesday, November 26.
The wreck occurred soon after morning commutes began, and first responders directed traffic from U.S. 281 to County Road 1323 and Sandy Road, located 2 miles from Oli’s Kitchen and Bar at 10541 U.S. 281 South in Round Mountain.
By 11 a.m., first responders allowed traffic on U.S. 281 to continue as normal. By then, more than four dozen vehicles, including 18-wheelers, trucks pulling trailers, and personal vehicles, had been directed to take Sandy Road.
No information on the identities of the deceased were available as of November 26.
The accident came at the beginning of Thanksgiving week, a reminder of holiday traffic and safety, particularly on one of the busiest parts of this Central Texas highway.
The Texas Department of Public Safety is increasing traffic enforcement Wednesday-Sunday, November 27-December 1, the agency announced. Troopers will be on the lookout for people not wearing seat belts, speeding, driving while intoxicated, or ignoring the “Move Over, Slow Down” law, which requires drivers to yield to emergency vehicles. Drivers should move to another lane if one is available or slow down at least 20 mph under the limit when emergency vehicles are on the side of the road. The law also applies if an emergency vehicle’s flashing lights are activated. The vehicles covered under the law are police, fire, EMS, tow trucks, and the Texas Department of Transportation.
Drivers who fail to do so can be ticketed, according to the DPS. Fines start at $200 but increase to up to $2,000 if someone is injured.
During the 2018 Thanksgiving holiday, DPS troopers wrote more than 74,000 traffic citations and warnings, including 956 seat belt and child safety restraint citations. The department’s efforts also resulted in 37 DWI arrests, 244 fugitive arrests, and 213 felony arrests.
Texans planning to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, according to DPS, should:
• not drink and drive
• “Steer IT, Clear IT,” if they can. That means that if a driver is involved in a non-injury crash and can drive the vehicle to the side of the road to minimize the impact on traffic, they should. Leaving the vehicle in a traffic lane increases the chances of harm to those involved in the accident and increases traffic congestion. On some highways, drivers could get a ticket for not moving the vehicle if possible.
• slow down, especially in bad weather
• remove driving distractions, particularly mobile devices. Note that state law prohibits the writing, reading, or sending of electronic messages unless the vehicle is stopped.
• wear seat belts
• drive defensively
• not drive tired. Get plenty of rest and give yourself enough time to get to your destination safely.
• report anything suspicious or a road hazard to the nearest law enforcement agency
• use the left lane for passing only. Texas law requires slower traffic to keep to the right lane and only use the left lane for passing.
• make certain the vehicle has basic maintenance done such as airing up tires and making sure lights are working. Also, double check that cargo is secured properly.
• move over or slow down for police, fire, EMS, TxDOT vehicles, and tow trucks. DPS troopers have written 23,611 citations and warnings for violations of this law.
• monitor weather and road conditions. Go to drivetexas.org or call 800-452-9292 for road conditions and closures.