Harris and Dallas Counties Lead Texas in Fatal Commercial Vehicle Crashes
The two most populous counties in Texas also led the state in serious and fatal commercial vehicle crashes last year.
9,520 Truck and 18 Wheeler Crashes in Harris and Dallas Counties
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, Dallas and Harris counties tied for the top spot, with 29 deadly commercial vehicle accidents in 2019. Those crashes also resulted in 29 fatalities for each county.
During the same period, Dallas County saw 89 “suspected serious crashes” resulting in 109 serious injuries. Harris County wasn’t far behind, with 86 serious crashes and 103 serious injuries.
Overall, Harris County reported 5,767 accidents involving large trucks, 18-wheelers, and other commercial vehicles during 2018, compared to 3,753 for Dallas County.
Deadly 18 Wheeler Crashes Surge Across Permian Basin
Ector County took second place, with 21 fatal truck and 18-wheeler crashes in 2018. Nearby Midland County’s 16 were enough for third place, while Fort Worth’s Tarrant County, the third most populous in the state, came in fourth with 14.
Bexar County, which includes San Antonio, and Reeves each reported 13 fatal commercial vehicle crashes last year, while tiny Winkler County ranked sixth with 11.
Ector, Midland, Reeves, and Winkler counties are located in the heart of the Permian Basin. The 12-county, oil-rich region accounted for 15% of the fatal commercial vehicle crashes that occurred in the state during 2017, while housing less than 2% of the Texas population.
Thriving Oil Industry Drives Permian Basin Truck Accidents
“A lot of what is driving that overwhelming number of crashes and fatalities is the commercial vehicle aspect of it, and that goes directly back in the increased activity you’re seeing,” James Beauchamp, president of the Midland-Odessa Transportation Alliance, recently told Marfa Public Radio.
Unfortunately, the Permian Basin’s narrow and deteriorating rural roads are no match for the increased truck traffic that’s accompanied the area’s unprecedented drilling boom. It certainly doesn’t help that a shortage of workers has also attracted thousands of new oilfield truck drivers to the region, including many who lack the experience to safely navigate the area’s challenging topography.
At least a third of the wrecks that occur in the Permian Basin are the result of distracted driving, while another third involve the use of drugs or alcohol. Driver fatigue is also extremely prevalent throughout the Permian, as oilfield truckers, usually paid by the load, race to work as many hours as possible.
“When you’ve been in the oilfield for ten to 11 days, working 14 hours a day, you just become so tired that you’re not thinking straight,” one veteran trucker told the Dallas Morning News. “You’re just brain dead, because you’re living off four to six hours of sleep.”
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