Eddy County Traffic Fatalities Trend Higher, as Permian Basin Oilfield Trucks Clog New Mexico Roads

Eddy County, one of the main oil-producing counties on the New Mexico side of the Permian Basin, has seen a significant rise in traffic fatalities since production began ramping up in 2016.

14 Killed in Eddy County Traffic Accidents This Year

The unprecedented drilling boom currently underway in the Permian Basin kicked off in 2016.

That year, truck and other motor vehicle accidents killed 7 people across all of Eddy County.

Just one year later, the death toll had grown to 17, while an equal number of traffic fatalities were reported in 2018.

This year is shaping up to be similarly deadly, with Eddy County traffic accidents having already taken 14 lives as of September 7, 2019.

Nearly 1/3 of Eddy County Traffic Fatalities Involved Heavy Trucks

Eddy County has seen a dramatic increase in traffic volume since 2016.

Like other Permian Basin counties, heavy oilfield trucks and 18-wheelers are now a common sight on the region’s rural roads and highways. In fact, in some areas of southeast New Mexico, it’s not unusual to see as many 100 big rigs backed up at a single stoplight.

Not surprisingly, four of the Eddy County fatalities recorded so far this year involved 18-wheelers and other large commercial trucks.

The Permian Basin’s Most Dangerous Roads

According to the Houston Chronicle, an average of 450 traffic-related deaths now occur in the Permian Basin region of Texas and New Mexico each year.

For the past several years, locals have referred to U.S. Highway 285 as “Death Highway.” Running across the Permian Basin, through Pecos, Texas and onto Carlsbad, New Mexico, this single stretch of road saw 49 crashes (20 involving a heavy truck) during 2018, up from 31 crashes (15 truck-related) the year before.

Accidents along New Mexico State Routes 31 and 128 have also increased in the last year.

In neighboring Texas, the Permian Basin and other oil-producing regions now account for nearly half of the state’s traffic fatalities.

Inexperienced Truckers Work Long Hours in the Permian Basin

Why has the Permian Basin become so dangerous for motorists?

For one thing, the region’s roads – mostly narrow and rural – were never designed to carry the volume of traffic – especially heavy oilfield trucks and 18-wheelers – that they’re seeing right now.

A scarcity of experienced oilfield truckers has also encouraged thousands of new drivers to head to New Mexico and Texas, where those willing to work long-hours can easily earn six-figure wages.

Already lacking familiarity with the Permian Basin’s treacherous roadways, many of these novice drivers routinely work 12-hour shifts with little time off, so they’re far too fatigued to safely operate their rigs.

The lure of a big paycheck and the constant pressure to deliver their loads on time not only encourages speeding, but also leads many truckers to neglect vehicle maintenance — or fail to complain when their employer does.

The Permian Basin also boasts the highest rate of driving while intoxicated in the state of Texas, and a significant percentage of oilfield truckers are relying on cocaine, methamphetamines, and other illicit substances to cope with long hours behind the wheel.

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