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Two drivers were killed in separate collisions on different stretches of U.S. 281 within one hour of each other on Monday, Dec. 4. The deaths add to a total of seven traffic fatalities in the Highland Lakes since Nov. 22, the day before Thanksgiving.

At the time of this story’s publication, both investigations were ongoing and the victims’ identities had not been released.

One of the drivers was killed in a wreck outside of Burnet near the 9800 block of U.S. 281 after they drifted across the center line from the northbound lane and struck a southbound vehicle. The victim’s vehicle was engulfed in flames, and they were declared dead at the scene by first responders. Texas Department of Public Safety troopers responded to the wreck at 2:11 p.m. Monday.

The other driver was killed near Round Mountain in the 6800 block of U.S. 281. The victim’s northbound vehicle was struck by a southbound vehicle that drifted into the opposite lane for “unknown reasons,” according to a preliminary incident report from the DPS. The victim was declared dead at the scene. Troopers responded to the wreck at 2:53 p.m. Monday.

The Round Mountain fatality occurred on the same stretch of U.S. 281 as a Nov. 22 three-vehicle collision that killed four people, including a father and his two children. 

Another driver was killed in a head-on collision on Nov. 27 on Texas 71 near Horseshoe Bay.

According to the Texas Department of Transportation, the holiday season, from late November to early January, can be a dangerous time for motorists due to increased alcohol consumption, stress from traveling, more drivers in unfamiliar locations, and a rise in distracted driving.

Between Dec. 1, 2022, and Jan. 1, 2023, TxDOT reported that 108 people were killed and another 229 injured in driving under the influence-related collisions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has the following general recommendations for safe driving during the holidays:

  • Do not drive impaired. In 2019, alcohol-impaired driving contributed to more than 10,100 traffic fatalities. Impairment by any legal or illicit drug — not just alcohol — can increase crash risk.
  • Avoid distractions. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off of the road for at least five seconds. At 55 mph, that is like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed. Driving requires your full attention.
  • Check the weather. Make sure to drive at a speed that is safe for road and weather conditions.
  • Do not drive drowsy. An estimated 6,400 people die each year in crashes involving drowsy driving, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

dakota@thepicayune.com