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More traffic, more fatal Texas crashes around Eagle Ford

Money, people and traffic keep rolling into McMullen County in South Texas. The county and about a dozen other counties surrounding it were not this active before the Eagle Ford Shale oil prospect opened a few years ago.

While the economic boost to local communities has been welcome, the rapid and heavy increase of commercial truck traffic has not. Residents say fatal trucking accidents have become frequent in places like Tilden, which used to average one deadly truck accident every year. The Texas Department of Transportation recorded four commercial vehicle accidents in McMullin County in 2008. Last year there were 46 accidents.

The latest crash involved two oil tanker trucks on Texas 16. One trucker was killed as the second rig plowed into his vehicle and touched off a fire. The 23-year-old driver who survived failed to yield.

State officials said most McMullen County commercial truck crashes happened because drivers failed to heed construction zone signs or drove without properly lit headlights. Tilden traffic has become so congested that walking is often a quicker form of transportation than driving. Several residents avoid becoming pedestrians, too, since the area offers no signals or crosswalks to regulate traffic.

Local worries are tempered by economic benefits the oil drilling companies have brought to the area. That doesn’t mean neighbors feel safe. One resident said poor traffic conditions forced her to stop taking her young child along on grocery shopping trips.

State officials and local home and business owners know a traffic problem exists and why accidents keep happening. All the new local revenue is apparently not going into the maintenance or improvement of roads.

How many of these accidents can be blamed solely on drivers? Should the oil companies or counties that benefit from Eagle Ford kick in to prevent more accidents, injuries and fatalities or take responsibility for the crashes? The victims of these accidents and families who lost loved ones on these roads would probably say "yes."

Source: fuelfix.com, "Deadly crashes keep adding up as area sees more truck traffic," Jennifer Hiller, Aug. 14, 2012

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