Many of us have presumed that the Texas oil boom of recent years directly impacted the increasing number of tractor-trailer accidents on our highways, including those resulting in significant injuries and deaths. Now, a study compiled by researchers at Texas A&M University has confirmed what we believed all along.
The report published earlier this month details how crashes significantly increased in North Texas during the Barnett Shale boom from 2006 to 2009, and how those numbers fell dramatically when energy companies shifted their focus to the Permian Basin in West Texas and the Eagle Ford Shale in the southern portion of the state. Disturbingly, the report shows that wrecks involving commercial vehicles in rural areas declined by 34 percent when energy companies largely abandoned the Barnett Shale region, but those same types of crashes increased by 61 percent in the Eagle Ford and 52 percent in the Permian Basin once drilling companies arrived.
The A&M study also examines the economic impact on the communities where semi-trailers and other heavy trucks are involved in accidents. Those numbers eclipsed the $100-million mark in both the Permian Basin and the Eagle Ford regions, with the Barnett Shale area shouldering $73 million in related costs during the prescribed time frames. More damning and more significantly, the A&M researchers assessed the costs for the Eagle Ford and Permian Basin areas at north of $4 billion after figuring in quality of life considerations supported by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The study’s lead author was quoted as saying that the correlation between the increased number of accidents in areas where wells were being added and the decrease in areas where well production slowed was so obvious that it could be used as a predictive model. Said differently, once oil and gas prices start to rise and energy companies start drilling more wells, we are going to see more and more accidents on our roadways.
Here’s hoping that legislators and those in the energy industry do something in the meantime to remedy this obvious problem. Otherwise, countless Texans in oil and gas boomtowns will stand a far greater chance of not making it home safely.