Many drivers who live near San Antonio are aware that the oil and gas boom in the Eagle Ford Shale region has brought more people and activity to the area. Along with an increase in traffic, local residents and workers who drive near this energy sector may also face a higher risk of serious accidents. Data from the Texas Department of Transportation indicates fatal accidents, especially ones that involve a commercial vehicle, are increasing.

Alarming increase in accidents

The DOT states that in 2013 alone, 238 lives were lost in motor vehicle accidents that occurred in the Eagle Ford Shale region. Altogether, crashes that happened in the same region and resulted in fatalities or injuries increased 7 percent from 2012 to 2013, with 3,450 of these crashes occurring in 2013.

This trend is not isolated to 2012 and 2013. According to National Public Radio, data from the Texas DOT shows that fatal accidents across the state increased between 2009 and 2013, breaking a long-term pattern of declining traffic fatalities. During that same period, the number of fatal accidents involving a commercial vehicle increased 50 percent, which suggests that commercial vehicle accidents were not a trivial factor in the overall accident increase.

The DOT notes that traffic associated with the oil and gas boom, including large trucks and vehicles transporting work crews, has led to "unprecedented" levels of traffic in some areas. Road congestion alone can raise accident risk, but alarmingly, reports indicate that the uptick in accidents may also involve several factors that are more preventable. For example, law enforcement authorities have identified speeding and distraction as two primary factors in many of these crashes.

Staying safe on the roads

The DOT advises workers and other drivers who are traveling near work zones in the Eagle Ford Shale energy sector to take several proactive steps to reduce their accident risk. These include:

  • Wearing seatbelts
  • Passing and following with caution, especially near larger vehicles
  • Following posted speed limits and stop signs
  • Focusing only on the road while driving

Despite these recommendations, some drivers may still make careless decisions, such as texting or using cellphones while driving. In accidents involving larger commercial vehicles, the consequences for other road users may be steep.

Serious commercial vehicle accidents

The reported increase in fatal commercial vehicle accidents calls attention to the serious consequences that these accidents can have. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that large trucks can outweigh passenger vehicles by a factor of 30, resulting in devastating outcomes in crashes. The majority of fatalities in large truck accidents are people riding in other vehicles.

In addition to causing more serious accidents, trucks may be more likely to become involved in accidents due to a few factors. Trucks require more distance to stop because of their significant weight. They are prone to problems such as rollover and capable of riding over other vehicles due to high ground clearance. These characteristics create a potential for accidents that might not occur with other vehicles.

Sadly, accidents involving large trucks and other commercial vehicles near the Eagle Ford Shale region may affect many local residents and oilfield workers in 2015, if recent years are any indicator. Anyone who has been hurt or lost a loved one in such an accident should think about meeting with an attorney to discuss pursuing compensation.