The rising rate of Texas traffic fatalities involving three or more deaths is alarming: 72 such accidents in 2010; 101 in 2012 and 148 last year, according to an in-depth report by the Houston Chronicle.
Through mid-July of this year, the newspaper said 81 people had died in triple tragedies on Texas highways, and it points out that Texas now leads the nation in motor vehicle deaths. The trend across the country is a decrease in such accidents.
Perhaps as disturbing is one of the key factors in this recent spike in fatal crashes. The Chronicle’s analysis suggests that the oil and gas industry boom is a major contributor.
The large trucks on highways and narrow roads, along with fatigued workers who often work 12-hour days for 14 days straight or 24-hour shifts, add to the danger.
State Highway 72, a 111-mile narrow stretch in southeast Texas that serves oil boom towns in the Eagle Ford Shale, is now known has “Death Row” because it has seen so many accidents. There have been 21 fatal accidents on that roadway since 2011, four involving three or more deaths, the newspaper said.
Interstate 20, which serves the oil-rich Midland-Odessa area as well as Fort Worth and the Barnett Shale, has had 13 triple-fatality accidents since 2010. That’s double the number in the same period on Interstate 10, which is much longer and crosses the state from east to west.
Although there is no data showing the exact number of fatal traffic accidents involving oil and gas workers or industry vehicles, the state’s largest workers’ compensation carrier shows an increase in transportation deaths of those industry workers.
Texas Mutual Insurance indicated that “those employers have reported 24 fatal motor vehicle accidents so far in 2014 — three times as many as in 2009,” the Chronicle said.
This is a serious problem that ought to be addressed immediately.
It doesn’t have to require the attention of industry regulators, as employers ought to be able to institute more appropriate safety rules. They are the ones who should take action to cut down on worker fatigue, a major factor in many of these accidents.
Addressing the two-week shifts of 12-hour days and the 24-hour shifts would be two places to start.