Many parts of the United States have traffic problems, many of which can lead to fatalities on the roads.

The Permian Basin is no exception. But what makes this area unique is the addition of tanker traffic consisting of large trucks, often weighing the equivalent of several pickup trucks, which share the roads with school buses, church vans and family sedans.

“We have an average of one death in the Permian Basin every three days,” said Sgt. Steven Blanco of the Texas Department of Public Safety. He told people gathered at the Permian Basin STEPS – Service, Transmission, Exploration and Production – Safety Network at Midland College’s Carrasco Hall that nine people had been killed on area roads in the past week. When the DPS stationed hm in Andrews in 2003, he said, there were only two deaths a year out of town.

“The Permian Basin is unique because of oil and gas. It is one of three unique oil and gas basins,” he said.

It also gave rise to what he called the oilfield mentality:

• Time is money,
• Get it while we can,
• If I don’t do it, they will find someone else to do it.

This time-is-money mentality leads to speeding, aggressive driving and fatigued driving. But, in reality, Blanco said, research shows that speeding only saves the driver a little more than a minute, but greatly increases the risk to him and others on the road.

Speeding also leads to increased wear and tear on the vehicle, decreased fuel consumption, the cost of speeding tickets, and increased insurance costs due to tickets or accidents.

There are, Blanco said, three steps that can help reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities:

• Changing the driver’s point of view on the speed limit,
• Highlight the dangers of distracted driving,
• Recognize the unique characteristics of commercial vehicles in the region.

Drivers should reduce their speed to account for road, weather and traffic conditions. The condition of the vehicle and the driver must also be taken into consideration.

Distracted driving has replaced alcohol as the number one killer of teens on the roads, Blanco said. “Think of the distance traveled while you check your cell phone or change the dial on the radio.”

He added: “If you’re not getting home or working safely, you’re not helping anyone.”

Last year was the deadliest year on Texas roads compared to the previous four years, with 4,403 fatalities. This is up from 3,656 in 2018, 3,623 in 2019 and 3,893 in 2020. Blanco said deaths were increasing because during the pandemic companies stopped focusing on safety, stopped safety presentations during shutdowns and stopped interacting with safety groups and their drivers.

“We can’t solve the problem with a ticket,” he said.

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