The formerly quiet towns of South Texas have been turned upside down by the Eagle Ford Shale oil boom. Huge construction trucks and other commercial vehicles have taken over the roads, and the infrastructures of these small towns are not adequate to support such massive changes.
Despite the positive impacts of the Eagle Ford Shale oil boom, these communities are feeling a huge negative impact due to the major increase in traffic accidents and fatalities. The Texas Department of Transportation cites a 40% increase in traffic-related fatalities in the Eagle Ford Shale area. This translates to 2,723 serious injuries and 248 fatalities.
Another staggering statistic: in the 3 counties where drilling is the most active, there was a 470% increase in commercial vehicle accidents between 2009 and 2011. In addition, in the counties composing the Permian Basin, fatal crashes have tripled in rate.
What is causing these accidents?
- Poor or damaged infrastructure: roads are being torn up by heavy trucks and increased traffic. In addition, many roads are simply too narrow to accommodate the types of vehicles that they are seeing.
- Dangerous driving: big trucks may use their massive size to ignore traffic signs or force their way on the roads
- Poorly maintained vehicles: poorly maintained vehicles are more likely to be involved in accidents. Properly functioning brakes, tires, and even taillights can help everyone stay safe on the road.
- Fatigued workers: long hours and grueling work can take its toll when a worker gets behind the wheel and lacks the energy for safe/vigilant driving
The Texas Department of Transportation estimates that it will cost $4 billion a year to maintain proper infrastructure across the Eagle Ford Shale. This would include repairing roads, and in some cases making the requisite expansions necessary to accommodate the massive increase in traffic.
To put the strain on roads into perspective, consider this: according to the Texas Tribune, bringing just one well into production means over 1000 loaded trucks will have to travel back and forth, which is equivalent to 8 million cars traveling those roads. Multiply this by over 200 wells, and one can begin to understand the impact that the oil and gas industry is having on these roads.
Residents and energy companies are feeling the impact equally. For residents, their entire way of life has been turned upside down. They face unprecedented traffic and hazards when traveling even short distances. For energy companies, they face limitations in the transportation of oil and gas and the use of commercial motor vehicles.
So what are Texas lawmakers doing to better the situation? Unsurprisingly, it has been difficult to get anything done. As of June 2013, lawmakers have allocated $225 million to repairing county roads and the same amount to repair state-owned roads. Those working to get funding see this only as a short-term solution, especially considering the fact that experts estimate that $4 billion a year would be necessary to maintain infrastructure.
This is unfortunate because the state has a budget surplus and billions in its Rainy Day Fund as a result of the drilling boom in these counties, but it is unwilling to provide the funds that are so desperately needed to maintain and repair the roads that will keep workers and citizens safe.
Safety Tips for Driving in the Eagle Ford Shale
Don’t text and drive! Distracted driving can be as dangerous as drinking and driving. Electronic devices provide endless distractions. Keep your eyes and your mind on the road. Texting takes your eyes from the road, your hands off the wheel, and your mind away from safe driving. With all your senses distracted from safely operating your vehicle, it becomes clear why texting while driving is so dangerous.
Pass carefully. Passenger cars should be especially careful when passing commercial motor vehicles and construction vehicles. These big trucks have large blind spots called ‘no zones’ that render smaller vehicles practically invisible. Do not assume a truck can see you and accommodate you. Also remember that big trucks can’t stop quickly, so if you cut a CMV off, you run the risk of a serious accident.
Leave plenty of space. Don’t linger around big trucks. Staying close to them in any direction is dangerous, and can lead not only to collisions, but also to underride or override accidents. In both of these cases, a passenger vehicle slides beneath a truck altogether. These accidents almost always involve fatalities.
Obey basic traffic laws. One of the most fundamental ways to stay safe on the road is to obey the basics of the road. Stop completely at stop signs. Truck drivers rely on you to do so. Stay within the speed limits on on-ramps; this is where the majority of large motor vehicle accidents occur.
Be aware of road conditions. Now that you know how damaged many of the roads in the Eagle Ford Shale area are, expect to slow down. When bad weather combines with bad roads, conditions deteriorate even further. Adjust your speed accordingly.
The Attorneys at Kirkendall Dwyer LLP Can Help
If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident in the Eagle Ford Shale, our attorneys have the experience, knowledge, and resources to help you in every way. You may find yourself out of work and unable to pay your bills. You may also find yourself seriously injured and facing mounting medical bills. An experienced attorney can help you handle all aspects of your injury and recovery. Contact us today for a free consultation.