In September, we reported on the Houston Chronicle article outlining the increase in multiple-fatality crashes in association with the oil and gas boom across the state. Between 2009 and 2013, traffic fatalities occurring in commercial vehicle crashes have risen by 51 percent across the state.
Ted Houghton, Transportation Commission Chairman, is calling on officials in Texas to address the rise in fatal commercial trucking crashes and multiple fatality crashes associated with the natural gas extraction boom since 2008. The response came shortly after the Houston Chronicle published a well-researched piece on the link between multiple-fatality crashes (triple tragedies) and the natural gas extraction boom across the state. It isn’t just that oil field workers are getting off 12-24 hour shifts and getting behind the wheel. There is a serious lack of enforcement in these now heavily trafficked areas.
Smaller Roadways are Now High-Traffic Areas
Many of the areas which have had an increase in fatal commercial trucking accidents and multiple fatality crashes are actually smaller rural roads and state highways. These areas aren’t heavily populated, but they’re in the heart of oil country. Prior to the big boom in natural gas extraction in 2008, these roadways were predominantly patrolled by local law enforcement officers. Although these roadways are now full of commercial trucking traffic, local law enforcement agencies are still operating with the same amount of patrol officers.
Additional Law Enforcement Presence Needed
Another problem identified by the Houston Chronicle has been the need for an increase in enforcement to deal with reckless drivers and “rogue commercial trucks” in high-traffic oil and gas extraction areas. Apparently, state troopers have been diverted to police the border, and many crash-prone, problematic shale areas have been left virtually lawless with only smaller local law enforcement crews.
Meeting the Demands of Increased Commercial Trucking Traffic
Smaller county and city law enforcement agencies have not been able to meet the demands of busier roadways. They simply do not have the budget or patrol power to keep up with the increase in commercial trucking traffic. A recent highway safety meeting held by the Senate Transportation Committee noted lack of infrastructure, hotel shortages and high housing costs as inhibiting factors to deploying DPS troopers to busy shale areas. With the death toll rising, it remains to be seen if these roadways can be made safer for motorists in the near future.