There’s no doubt about it – the oil industry has taken off in West Texas. The Permian Basin, a stretch of land covering more than 75,000 square miles in Texas and New Mexico, yields more than 3.9 million barrels of oil every day. That’s one-third of all of the oil produced in the United States.
This oil boom has had a massive impact on transportation in and around cities in the Permian Basin, including Midland, Odessa, and Pecos. Thousands of oilfield workers drive into the area to drill and extract on a daily basis. Fleets of trucks line the roads every day as they transport the crude oil to refineries, and then double back to refill and do the journey again.
As a result, West Texas has seen a surge in trucking accidents and car accidents in recent years. Since 2016, crashes in the Permian Basin have increased by 67 percent. Commercial motor vehicle accidents have increased by a staggering 160 percent in that same period of time.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, there were 49,410 traffic accidents in the Permian Basin in 2017. Only one oil shale – the Barnett Shale – saw more crashes. Those accidents in the Permian basin caused 1,321 serious injuries and 485 deaths.
Statistics show that fatal traffic accidents in the Permian Basin are a serious concern. Only 7 percent of the state’s population lives there. However, 13 percent of all fatal crashes in the state of Texas occur on roads there. And, fatal crashes there appear to be happening more frequently. In fact, fatalities in the Permian Basin have increased by 97 percent in recent years.
That might be why Route 285 – a Texas highway that runs through the Permian Basin – has been nicknamed the Death Highway. In 2017, 93 people were killed in truck accidents US 285. That represents a 43 percent increase in fatal crashes on the highway over a five year period. The Permian Basin oil boom and the drastic increase in fatal accidents go hand-in-hand.