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Traffic Accidents Increase as Texas Oil and Gas Industry Grows

Here are some alarming statistics for workers in the busy oil and gas industry in Texas. From 2003 to 2008, the leading cause of death for oil field workers nationwide was highway accidents, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. And in 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported that almost 40 percent of fatalities in the oil and gas industry resulted from motor vehicle accidents.

Many Texas communities are currently seeing big increases in traffic volume as the Eagle Ford Shale area and other oil-rich regions undergo development. Significantly, much of the traffic increase comes in the form of big trucks carrying heavy equipment used in oil fields, as well as tanker trucks hauling water and oil.

The heavy truck traffic is stressing and damaging county roads and highways not built for such intensive use, faster than local governments can do necessary maintenance. One worker said he counted 200 potholes on his 30-mile commute, according to the Houston Chronicle.

While road conditions certainly can contribute to accidents, driver behavior is the major cause, and many accidents are readily preventable through education and safer driving practices. The biggest cause of serious injury and fatal motor vehicle accidents in Texas is speeding. Like the rest of the country, Texas is also affected by the distracted driving epidemic. A driver who looks away from the road for just five seconds at 40 miles per hour is essentially driving blind for the length of a football field, and when driving a big rig with oil drilling equipment or supplies, the consequences of an accident are usually tragic.

Further, workers who spend long days in the oil fields may drive home exhausted. In 2010, for example, Texas state police reports indicated that more than 4,000 crashes on state roads were the result of driver fatigue.

Besides speeding, driver distraction and driver fatigue, another common factor in transportation-related deaths for workers is the failure to wear a seatbelt. Even if seatbelt use might not cause or prevent accidents, wearing a seatbelt increases the odds of avoiding serious injury or death when an accident occurs.

Whatever may be done to reduce trucking accidents through better driver education and road maintenance, accidents will still happen on Texas roads, especially involving oil and gas workers as the industry continues to develop resources. If you or a loved one has been hurt or suffered fatal harm in a motor vehicle accident, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to explore your legal options.