Lower speed limits target truck accidents in drilling areas

Unusual emergency move highlights alarming rise in truck accidents

The steep rise in fatal truck accidents, particularly in Texas' drilling and fracking areas, has led the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to adopt an unusual emergency rule change to lower speed limits along particularly dangerous routes, according to the Texas Tribune. The move will allow TxDOT to lower speed limits within a matter of weeks, thus bypassing the usual months-long process that would usually be required.

Lower speed limits

TxDOT has yet to say which roads will be affected by the reduced speed limits. The emergency rule change allows the department to lower the speed limit by up to 12 mph on rural two-lane, two-way state roads that are under 24 feet wide. Such roads have seen a sharp increase in traffic since the state's energy boom began in 2008.

TxDOT says the increased traffic is also damaging the roads, leading to further safety issues. Bee County, which is at the center of the Eagle Ford Shale boom, is likely to see speed limit reductions as accidents there are three times the state average. Under the emergency rule, TxDOT will be able to bypass a study that would usually be required to lower speed limits and instead simply identify roads with higher-than-average crash rates as being eligible for lower limits.

Truck accidents soaring

The move is the latest response to dealing with Texas' soaring truck accident rate. Fatalities linked to commercial vehicle accidents have risen by 51 percent across Texas between 2009 and 2013, according to the Houston Chronicle. In counties affected by the energy boom, the increase is often many times the state average. Texas also currently has the most traffic accidents in the nation, bucking a nationwide trend that has seen motor vehicle accidents decrease in most other states.

Additionally, the Texas Department of Public Safety says that many commercial trucks should not be allowed on the road at all. It found that 27 to 30 percent of commercial trucks in Texas had life-threatening safety problems, such as malfunctioning brakes, tires that need replacing, broken safety lights, and impaired, fatigued or unqualified drivers.

Legal representation

While the lower speed limits will help save some lives, the move is largely a limited response to a serious and growing issue for Texas motorists. The number of trucks on the state's roads and highways continues, as the above story shows, to cause heartbreak and tragedy for far too many families.

For those who have been injured, or who have lost a loved one, in a truck accident, options are available. Many truck accidents are caused by driver negligence, which is often exacerbated by trucking companies pushing their drivers to meet unrealistic deadlines. Such negligence should not go unpunished and a personal injury attorney can help victims of truck accidents learn about what options may be available to them.