An astonishing new Texas Department of Transportation report reveals that nearly 25% of traffic deaths in Texas happen in the state’s five main energy sectors. These areas include the Permian Basin and other energy hotspots renowned for their oil and gas production.
When oilfields are booming, drilling companies need thousands of heavy trucks and 18-wheelers to transport sand, water, and other supplies to and from their operations. But truck drivers behind the wheel are often inexperienced and also fatigued from working long shifts. This increases the likelihood of a major truck collision caused by falling asleep at the wheel, getting distracted by a mobile phone, or rushing to make up for lost time.
The result? In 2022, Texas oilfield regions were ground zero for 78,000 traffic crashes and 1,072 deaths.
With these stark statistics in mind, TxDOT is encouraging drivers to be mindful in these areas and take extra precaution driving near big rigs, according to San Antonio news outlet KSAT.
Here’s what you need to know to stay safe.
Traffic Crashes Near Texas Oil Fields in 2022
Traffic fatalities in the Texas oil patch account for almost one in four of all roadway deaths in the state. Along with the tens of thousands of accidents these regions saw in 2022 and over 1,000 lives lost, another 3,495 people suffered serious injuries.
Here is a closer look at the crashes by energy region in 2022:
- Barnett Shale: 20,776 traffic crashes resulted in 280 fatalities and 1,036 serious injuries.
- Eagle Ford Shale: 13,711 traffic crashes resulted in 186 fatalities and 590 serious injuries.
- Anadarko Basin: 635 traffic crashes resulted in 4 fatalities and 32 serious injuries.
- Haynesville/Bossier Shale: 17,594 traffic crashes resulted in 208 fatalities and 948 serious injuries.
- Permian Basin: 26,031 traffic crashes resulted in 394 fatalities and 889 serious injuries.
These statistics underscore a harrowing trend playing out everyday on our Texas roads and highways: fatal truck crashes are on the rise. In fact, from 2021 to 2022, there was a 31.9% increase in traffic deaths, according to TxDOT.
Why Are Truck Accidents Near Oil Fields So Dangerous?
Oilfields are inherently dangerous workplaces. For oilfield truck drivers and those sharing the road with their rigs, the danger not only continues, but is amplified on the road.
The main contributors to crashes in the five energy sectors are speeding and driver inattention, according to TxDOT.
At Zehl & Associates, we also know that a chronic shortage of experienced truck drivers often leads drilling companies to hire inexperienced truckers with little to no training and who lack the familiarity or know-how to safely navigate the rural roads and highways. With so many inexperienced truckers working consecutive 12-hour shifts to keep the oil flowing around the clock, oilfield truck accidents are a frequent occurrence.
In fact, motor vehicle crashes cause over 50% of work-related deaths in the oil and gas extraction industry, per the Center for Disease Control data.
Texans who live in the hubs of oil and gas production are no strangers to witnessing the devastation first hand. For instance, in the tiny Permian Basin town of Loving, Texas, locals even nicknamed U.S. Route 285 “Death Highway” after a 400% surge in traffic accidents during a recent fracking boom. The two-lane road was simply ill-equipped to handle the congestion and chaos caused by 10,000 semi-trucks, oil tankers, and other vehicles on the road every day.
How to Drive Safer Around Big Rigs in Texas Energy Sectors
TxDOT urges motorists traveling in energy-producing regions to:
- Drive at a safe speed appropriate for traffic, road conditions, and weather.
- Put the phone away
- Give large trucks plenty of space, be patient, and pass only when it’s safe and legal to do so
- Obey stop signs and traffic signals
- Never drive under the influence of alcohol or other drugs
- Buckle up — drivers and passengers — day and night
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