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TxDOT Kicks-Off New Safe Driving Initiative In Energy Producing Communities

A trailer with driving simulators was parked outside of the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum while the "Be Safe. Drive Smart." initiative was announced. (Mitch Borden / Marfa Public Radio)

From 2016 to 2018 — the Texas Department of Transportation, or TxDOT, estimates fatal crashes in the 12 West Texas counties that make up its Odessa district rose by 97 percent. That bump comes as the Permian Basin is seeing more people and commercial vehicles on the road because of an upswing in oil production.

TxDOT officials said speed and inattentive drivers are behind the rise in crashes.  According to Oscar Villareal, a sergeant with the Texas Highway Patrol, “Anybody who’s driving any vehicle needs to be more alert and  drives in a way that ensures we’re all safe.”

The increase in traffic crashes in Texas’ energy-producing regions is spurring officials to remind drivers to buckle up, slow down and get off their phones.  Villareal said drivers need to ask themselves how they improve their habits, such as: 

“What were we doing in a car that we missed that warning sign? What were we doing in that car that we missed traffic was slowing down? What were we doing that we missed the light had been yellow for a while.”

TxDOT will push its new safety initiative — BeSafe. Drive Smart. — with reminders broadcast on TV, posted at gas stations, and featured online.

Mitch Borden is Permian Basin Reporter & Producer at Marfa Public Radio.