Weatherford Democrat

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March 13, 2013

TxDOT asks drivers use caution around gas, oil field service trucks

New oil boom has brought new jobs to the region, but that means more people, traffic and accidents

(Continued)

The idea behind “Be Safe. Drive Smart,” is to stress basic safety precautions that many drivers often overlook, such as:

• Always wear a seatbelt.

• Don’t drive drowsy.

• Drive a safe speed that takes into account traffic, road conditions and weather.

• Stop for all stop signs and red lights.

• Pass carefully.

• Don’t drive distracted, which includes not texting or talking on cellphones.

• Never drink and drive.

Brian Barth, TxDOT’s deputy district engineer for Fort Worth, stressed the importance of his agency partnering with local governmental and local and state law enforcement to be effective in reducing traffic accidents. Barth introduced Johnson County Judge Roger Harmon, who said that county government started working early on that effort.

As soon as new techniques allowing oil and gas companies to profitably return to what were once thought to be depleted oil fields, including Johnson County, Harmon said the Johnson County Commissioners Court started working to mitigate the fallout related to the increased traffic.

“We have been very proactive in working with the DPS in regards to safety,” Harmon said, adding that Sheriff Bob Alford came to the court and said, “Let’s get a game plan in place on safety.”

Harmon said the commissioners authorized the hiring of four additional sheriff’s office deputies, one in each precinct, to work with the DPS specifically on traffic issues related to the oil and gas industry. It is the county’s partnership with DPS that has made the effort successful, he said.

“When you first look at it, the task of a job can look tremendous. But when you are working together, you can accomplish a lot,” Harmon said.

DPS Maj. Michael Bradberry, who oversees the 42-county Dallas region that includes the 16 counties of the Barnett Shale, said that because drivers in North Central Texas have not been used to having so many large trucks on the road, the revival of the oil and gas industry here has led to spikes in the numbers of accidents on U.S. 67 and U.S. 377, Texas 171 and many of the farm-to-market and county roads in the area. He said region-wide accidents rose by 24 percent last year.

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