AUSTIN — Booming energy production has brought jobs and economic gains to communities throughout Texas, but also an unintended consequence with a rise in traffic fatalities and injuries. In 2017, more than 194,000 crashes — an average of 532 per day in the state’s five main oil and gas production regions —resulted in 1,614 deaths and 7,422 serious injuries, a slight increase over the previous year.
TxDOT officials point to failure to control speed and driver inattention as the main reasons we are seeing a rise in traffic crashes in areas such as the Barnett Shale, Eagle Ford Shale, Granite Wash, Haynesville/Bossier Shale and Permian Basin. Driving under the influence of alcohol is also a primary factor in these fatal crashes.
“Increased traffic and larger, heavier vehicles are changing driving conditions in many parts of Texas,” said Texas Transportation Commissioner Alvin New. “We’re working with state, federal, local and industry partners to address safety and congestion, and we’re also reminding motorists to be safe and drive smart by following all traffic laws, giving their full attention to the road, and being cautious around the many water, sand and heavy equipment trucks traveling through energy-producing areas.”
Motorists can expect to see a variety of reminders in the coming weeks as TxDOT kicks off its annual “Be Safe. Drive Smart.” safety campaign that urges drivers to take precautions when sharing the road with heavy trucks and work crews in energy-producing regions that cover more than half of the state’s 254 counties. The campaign’s TV and radio spots, billboards, gas pump messages and digital advertising encourage drivers to follow basic common sense safety tips:
- Always buckle up - drivers and all passengers, day and night.
- Drive a safe speed that takes traffic, road conditions and weather into account.
- Focus 100 percent on driving and put the phone away.
- Give large trucks plenty of space. Be careful and only pass vehicles when it is safe to do so.
- Obey all stop signs and traffic signals.
- Never drive under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
TxDOT will host community events this month in the Permian Basin and Eagle Ford Shale featuring a new interactive public engagement exhibit outfitted with a variety of games and video displays that educate visitors about the importance of safe and smart driving in high-traffic oil and gas production areas.
In addition to raising public awareness about crash prevention steps, TxDOT also is committed to repairing and improving roads in the state’s energy-production areas. The Texas Transportation Commission has directed $3.4 billion to make repairs and improve roads in the booming Permian Basin over the next decade. While only 2 percent of Texans live in the Permian Basin region, 11 percent of all traffic fatalities in the state took place there in 2017.
“Be Safe. Drive Smart.” is a key component of #EndTheStreakTX, a larger grassroots effort that empowers drivers to make safer choices while on the road. Since Nov. 7, 2000, at least one person has died on Texas roadways every single day and that’s why #EndTheStreakTX asks all Texans to commit to helping end the streak of daily deaths on our roadways. TxDOT utilizes other driver education initiatives such as “Be Safe. Drive Smart.” to help in this endeavor.