Highway 83 and SH-153 accident numbers and fatalities continue to climb

Bill Hancock
Runnels County Register
The truck driven by Toby Moore of Ballinger. Moore pulled out onto Highway 83 in front of fellow Ballinger resident Justin Busenlehner on Tuesday evening around 7:15. Moore's vehicle was struck on the driver's side, bending and twisting the frame. Busenlehner's truck received extensive damage to the front, engine, and cab. Moore died at the scene. Busenlehner was flown to Parkland Hospital in Dallas.
According to the TXDOT CRIS website, Moore had a BAC of .329.

It's no secret that Highway 83 has been blanketed by collisions and deaths the last few years. The contributing factors to the accidents range from "Fail to Pass to the Left Safely," to "Fatigue," to DWI. This only takes into account the portion of Hwy 83 that runs through Runnels County.

State Highway 153 has also seen an increase in accidents, including several fatalities and serious injuries since January of 2020.

Highway 83 has 147 collisions in 21 months

This year, alone, there have been 13 accidents and 2 fatalities. One fatality was a 2-vehicle collision between pickup trucks on Highway 83 at CR344. One of the drivers, Toby Moore, had a blood alcohol level of .329 according to the TXDOT CRIS website. Moore ran a stop sign and was struck by the other vehicle. The other driver, Justin Busenlehner, was critically injured and flown to Parkland Hospital in Dallas.

In 2020, there were 25 wrecks on Hwy 83 in Runnels County, which included a handful of fatalities. When you add in collisions along the corridor in other counties, such as Concho and Taylor, the numbers skyrocket. According to the CRIS website, there were an addition 35 crashes in 2020 just on the part of Hwy 83 between Runnels County and Abilene.

There have been 32 crashes in Concho County on Hwy 83 this year. In Taylor County, from the Runnels County line to Abilene, there have been an additional 9 accidents thus far this year.

The total over the last 21 months is 38 accidents in Runnels County, as well as 44 between the Runnels County line and Abilene, and 65 in Concho County. That brings the total number of collisions to 147. That stretch of highway, from south of Abilene to Eden, is approximately 80 miles. That equates to an accident average of one accident for every .5 miles of roadway.

The truck driven by Justin Busenlehner of Ballinger. Fellow Ballinger resident Toby Moore pulled out onto Highway 83 in front of Busenlehner on July 22nd. Moore failed to yield right-of-way from a stop sign and was struck on the driver side. Moore, who was killed in the collision, reportedly had a BAC of .329, according to the TxDOT CRIS website.

SH-153 numbers skyrocket

When it comes to the number of accidents and fatalities in Runnels County, those numbers increase significantly when you add in Highway 153. The portion of Hwy 153 in Runnels County had 24 wrecks with 3 fatalities in 2020. Again, this is only taking into account that portion of Hwy 153 that runs through Runnels County.

This year there have been 20 accidents, involving 31 vehicles and 41 people. On June 13, of this year there was a wreck involving two SUVs, 6 people, with 3 fatalities in addition to serious injuries. That wreck occurred on 153 on the curve just beyond CR304. The driver had a BAC of .132. 

On January 11, a crash involving an SUV and semi tractor trailer seriously injured 3 people. This occurred only a few hundred feet from the 3-fatality accident. Skip down the road less than a quarter of a mile and single-accident occurred. The driver was uninjured, but excessive speed was cited as the contributing factor.

There were 24 wrecks involving 44 vehicles, 3 fatalities, and 57 people in 2020. The brings the 21-month total number of accidents to 44 collisions, involving 75 people, and 98 vehicles. There are still 3 months to go in 2021 as the number of deaths and injuries continue to climb.

Less than a week ago a Ballinger man was critically injured in a head-on collision on 153. He was airlifted from the scene and taken to a hospital in San Antonio, where he still remains hospitalized.

A Facebook page (Highway 153) has been created dedicated solely to SH-153 due to the inordinate number of collisions that occur on that highway.

No rhyme or reason

There is no common denominator to the accidents. They're just as likely to happen during the day as at night. They occur at all hours in the mornings, afternoons, evenings, and nights. The contributing factors mostly center on DWI, excessive speed, failure to pass safely, and inattentive driving.

The stretch of Highway 83 between Winters and Ballinger can be tricky for some drivers. One driver swerved to avoid a deer and ended up wrecking his car. In another incident, a motorcyclist ran off the road in a single-vehicle accident. The most common problem on that stretch of highway is passing. At areas where the highway straightens out, people get antsy and hit the gas to pass other vehicles. They're not always safe, especially if there is sun glare, or they misjudged the distance to oncoming traffic at night.

The highway horror stories are legion. People from Winters and Ballinger regularly talk about experiences where they had to drive into the emergency lane, or off the road, to avoid an oncoming vehicle. Passing around 18-wheelers is exceptionally dangerous for drivers in a rush to get somewhere. The odds of getting into an accident while passing an 18-wheeler increase at night.

When you total up all of the numbers, there have been 147 accidents, 8 fatalities, 143 vehicles and 187 people involved in accidents on Highway 83 and SH-153 since January 2020.