By Tammye Nash | Lone Star News Group
CLEBURNE – More than one-fifth of the world’s drilling rigs are located in Texas, according to a recent article published in the San Antonio Express-News. Thirty-four of those rigs are located in the 16 counties — including Johnson and Parker counties — that make up the Barnett Shale in North Central Texas.
Although the new oil boom is not without its controversies, it has brought new jobs and new people to the region. And that means more traffic and therefore more accidents and more fatalities.
The oil boom is “great for the state overall,” said Carol Rawson, traffic operations division director for the Texas Department of Transportation, “but it means some real challenges for us, too, especially when it comes to transportation.”
Chief among those challenges is the increase in motor vehicle accidents that accompanies increased traffic. To try and stem that rising tide, TxDOT officials, along with officials from Johnson County and the Department of Public Safety, unveiled TxDOT’s “Be Safe. Drive Smart.” campaign, aimed specifically at reminding drivers to be extra careful when driving in an energy work zone, with a press conference Friday at the Johnson County Courthouse.
Rawson said that in 2012 there were 3,384 people killed in motor vehicle accidents in Texas — a 10 percent increase over the previous year. In the 16 counties in the Barnett Shale, Rawson said, there were 14,920 motor vehicle accidents involving fatalities or serious injuries last year.
While the Barnett Shale region hasn’t seen the double-digit increases in accidents that have plagued other areas of the state, Rawson said, “TxDOT is committed to taking steps here to reduce the number of accidents that are happening.”
New life in the oil and gas industry means more heavy trucks on the roads, Rawson said, and that means that passenger vehicle drivers — as well as truck drivers — need to be even more careful to stay safe.