Contrary to popular belief, America’s roadways are safer now than they have ever been. Overall, violent accidents and traffic deaths have been reduced substantially over the last 50 years, and increased safety features and driver education have made our roads much safer and prevented many injuries and vehicle collisions. For instance, in 1965, the average number of traffic deaths per 100 million miles driven was 5.3; in 2012, that number had dropped precipitously to 1.13 – that’s a decrease of over 450%.
Despite this nationwide increase in motor vehicle safety, the numbers show that Texas’ roadways are the most dangerous in America. In 2012, the number of deaths per 100 million miles driven in Texas was 1.43, which is nearly 27% higher than the national average. Furthermore, Texas had the highest total number of traffic fatalities of any state, even though its population is almost 12 million fewer than California’s. In 2012, Texas also had the highest traffic fatality rate per capita with 13 deaths per 100,000. The national average was 10.7, placing Texas at a rate more than 20% higher than the national average.
This trend is likely related to the boom in drilling and fracking in Texas over the last decade. Between 2008 and 2013, over 7,000 new oil and gas wells were established in the Eagle Ford Shale region of Texas alone. Somewhere between 2,300 and 4,000 truck trips are needed for each well in order to deliver all of the raw materials and chemicals involved in the fracking process, which places a great deal of commercial traffic on our already poorly-maintained Texas roads. Along with this recent fracking and oil drilling boom, Texas has become one of the most dangerous states to drive in: between 2009 and 2013, traffic fatalities climbed 8% in Texas while most other states have seen a steady decline in traffic deaths.
In the last few years, the term “frackcident” (or “fraccident”) has become a buzzword for the rise of dangerous and fatal incidents associated with increased fracking across the United States – from contaminated drinking water to fatal motor vehicle crashes. Nowhere is this term more appropriate or prolific than in Texas.
Based on a recent report from the Associated Press, in 21 Texas counties where drilling has expanded, traffic deaths per 100,000 people are up an average of 18% while they are down by 20% across the rest of Texas. Catastrophic accidents where 3 or more people die have also sharply risen over the last few years from 72 in 2010 to 101 in 2012 and 148 in 2013, mostly on highways that pass through drilling and fracking areas. Furthermore, commercial vehicles have been linked to many more fatal crashes over the last 5 years in Texas – from 352 in 2009 to 532 in 2013; this represents a 51% increase while overall traffic fatalities have only risen 8%.
There are a number of possible reasons for these alarming figures, including poorly maintained roadways, insufficient infrastructure, and a lack of oversight and funding from various government agencies. Furthermore, it is estimated that between 27 and 30 percent of commercial trucks in Texas should not even be in operation due to life-threatening safety issues such as unfit, unqualified, or intoxicated drivers; malfunctioning safety lights; bald tires; or defective brakes.
But it’s not just Texas that is experiencing this trend in fracking- and drilling-related fatal crashes. Based on data compiled from six other drilling states, some areas have observed more than four times the number of fatalities than they did prior to drilling. Tellingly, these spikes in traffic deaths are occurring despite the fact that vehicles and roads across the country have become significantly safer even while an unprecedented number of vehicles are utilizing American roadways.
Whenever you drive, make sure to follow all traffic rules and remain focused on the task at hand. When driving in known oil and fracking areas, exercise extra caution, and be sure to allow commercial traffic plenty of room. The smartest things drivers can do are to drive safely and stay vigilant in areas with heavy commercial traffic.
If you have been involved in a vehicle collision or trucking crash, contact Crosley Law Firm at (877) 535-4529 or visit us online to learn more about your options. We offer free consultations and a “no-fee” policy, which means that we are here for you and will take on the financial risks involved in pursuing your case. Our expert, experienced staff is looking forward to hearing from you and is eager to assist you in all of your potential legal needs.
Associated Press. (2014, May 5). Fracking boom producing deadly side effect. CBS News. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/fracking-boom-producing-deadly-side-effect/
Atkin, E. (2014, May 7). Your next car accident could be fracking’s fault. Climate Progress. Retrieved from http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/05/07/3435110/frackcidents/
DriveSteady. (2011, August 24). A look at car accident reduction since 1950. DriveSteady. Retrieved from http://drivesteady.com/car-accident-reduction-since-1950
Highway Loss Data Institute. (2014). Fatality facts. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Retrieved from http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/general-statistics/fatalityfacts/state-by-state-overview/2012
Matheny, K. (2014, October 14). Shelby twp. drilling operation hits close to home. EagleFordTexas.com. Retrieved from http://eaglefordtexas.com/news/id/136983/shelby-twp-drilling-operation-hits-close-home/
Olsen, L. (2014, September 15). Fatal truck accidents have spiked during Texas’ ongoing fracking and drilling boom. Houston Chronicle. Retrieved from http://www.chron.com/news/article/Fracking-and-hydraulic-drilling-have-brought-a-5747432.php