Fatal Crashes Claimed Over 1,600 Lives in Texas Energy Regions Last Year

Texas Oilfield Truck Accident Lawyer | Midland-Odessa Oilfield Truck Accident Lawyer

More than 1,600 people died tragically while traveling through one of Texas’ five energy-producing regions last year, a sad reminder that the state’s booming oil economy does have a downside.

Traffic Fatalities Up 20% in the Permian Basin

The Permian basin, which encompasses most of West Texas into New Mexico, recorded 485 traffic-related deaths and 1,372 serious injuries in 2018. Fatal accidents were up 13% over 2017, while fatalities jumped by 20%.

The Barnett shale, which includes the densely populated Fort Worth metro area and extends to Wichita Falls, fared even worse, with 710 fatalities and 3,400 serious injuries reported during 2018.

According to James Bass, TxDOT’s executive director, the years-long oil boom has drastically changed driving conditions across huge swaths of Texas.

“A big increase in the number of heavy trucks and traffic on state and county roads adds to the complexity of driving — something we always need to give our full attention to, while also obeying traffic laws,” he recently told the Corpus Christi Times-Caller.

Speeding, Distracted Driving Leading Causes of Fatal Crashes

While speeding remains the leading cause of Texas traffic accidents, data from TxDOT indicates distracted driving is a close second.

“It’s very scary out there right now,” said Richard Minnix, the owner of McClatchy Brothers, a Midland-based trucking company that serves Permian Basin drillers.  “The biggest problem is distracted driving. It’s jacking with your cell phone, text messages.”

It certainly doesn’t help that the majority of Texas drilling takes place in largely rural areas, where roads and highways were never designed to accommodate big oilfield trucks or heavy traffic volume.

“We’re becoming more and more congested, and there are more and more fatalities that involve everyone because some of the simplest things we are not doing well,” Joe Esparza, head of the Texas Trucking Association, told the Times-Caller. “And you throw trucks in the middle of all of that, you are seeing more trucks involved in that area in a disproportionate amount than they are for the whole rest of the state.”

Inexperienced Oilfield Truckers Struggle to Cope with Long Hours

Because of a severe hiring shortage, many of the oilfield trucks new to the Permian basin and other Texas energy regions are being driven by inexperienced truckers unfamiliar with the state’s often-hazardous rural roads. As they strive to make as much money as possible, many of those newly arrived drivers are working consecutive 12-hour shifts with little time off for rest and are far too fatigued to safely operate their vehicles.

The pursuit of a big paycheck, frequent traffic delays, and the constant pressure to deliver their loads on time not only encourages speeding among Texas’ oilfield truck drivers, it also leads many to ignore vital vehicle maintenance – or at least turn a blind eye when their employers do.

To make matters even worse, the Permian basin and other energy producing regions suffer from some of the highest rates of intoxicated driving in the state, with many oilfield truck drivers turning to methamphetamines and other illicit substances as they struggle to cope with long hours, boredom, and other demands of their jobs.

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