TX oil and gas boom makes for dangerous roads and more fatal accidents

The ongoing oil and gas industry boom has brought jobs, revenue and various other benefits to Texas. However, as many people in Bryan have noticed, the boom has also brought more heavy truck traffic, particularly to small rural roadways. Unfortunately, recent data indicates this increase has raised the risk that local drivers will suffer a fatal accident.

A deadly toll

The Houston Chronicle reports that fatal auto accidents increased in Texas from 2009 to 2013. Trucks and commercial vehicles appeared to play a direct role; while overall fatalities increased just 8 percent during that four-year period, the number of fatalities involving commercial vehicles jumped 51 percent. As of September 2014, the number of fatal accidents in 2014 was on pace to exceed the number reported in 2013.

In certain counties, the effects have been more severe. From 2009 to 2013, fatal accidents increased 24 percent in Bexar County, with 188 lives lost in 2013. In Midland County, fatal accidents increased 47 percent during the same time. The Texas Department of Transportation reports that, throughout the Eagle Ford Shale region, 3,450 crashes resulted in serious injury or death in 2013.

Safety violations

Some of these accidents may occur because of the increased volume of traffic on roads that were not designed or physically built to accommodate large vehicles or congestion. Statistically, the increased presence of large trucks may also raise the risk of serious accidents. However, data and anecdotes both suggest that many fatalities occur in preventable negligent trucking accidents.

According to The Houston Chronicle, one Department of Public Safety program has found that as many as 30 percent of trucks operating in Texas suffer from safety issues that could prove deadly. These include:

  • Safety lights that aren't working
  • Tires that are worn down to bald
  • Dysfunctional brakes
  • Drivers who are undertrained, under the influence or otherwise not fit to drive

Additionally, compared to the national average, a high proportion of Texas trucks do not meet state or federal safety standards, a pattern that has persisted for years. Since 2009, the DPS has doubled the number of trucking firm audits and increased the number of inspections that it conducts. Still, many poorly maintained trucks and unfit drivers may remain on the roadways.

The deadly consequences of this negligence were highlighted in a large truck crash that occurred in April 2014, which claimed the life of one passenger vehicle driver. Investigators later found that the truck was not fit to be on the road because it had a dozen safety problems, from faulty lighting to defective brakes.

Addressing serious accidents

The DOT recommends that motorists use caution when driving in work zones near energy production regions. Drivers are advised to stay off their cellphones, use seatbelts, pass with caution, maintain reasonable speeds and always observe traffic signals or stop signs. Unfortunately, in many cases, these measures may not be enough to protect against accidents involving large trucks.

Anyone who has been affected by a large truck accident, either through direct personal involvement or the loss of a loved one, should consider speaking with a personal injury attorney to determine whether seeking compensation for the accident may be an option.