Deadly accidents spiked in both the Eagle Ford Shale and Permian Basin between 2009 and 2013, even as highway deaths fell across the rest of the state.

A new study from the Texas A & M Transportation Institute confirms a direct link between the increase in Texas oil production since 2009 and the surge in fatal crashes on state highways.

Two-thousand-nine marked the year oil production kicked into high gear in both the Eagle Ford Shale and Permian Basin regions of the state.

TTI compared accident statistics for the four years on either side of that divide. It found that, in the Eagle Ford, the number of fatal crashes rose by 6 percent. In the Permian Basin, they rose 21.8 percent. But in counties outside the state’s shale plays, the number of fatal accidents dropped by 5.4 percent.

“In general, there was a very strong correlation between rural crashes where commercial vehicles were involved – or, as we call it, CMV crashes – and the number of new wells,” says Cesar Quiroga, a senior research engineer at TTI and author of the report. “Many of these roads were never designed to accommodate such a large amount of traffic.”

The Texas Legislature asked TTI to study the issue last fall. That request closely followed a joint series by News 88.7 and the Houston Chronicle, investigating the rise in traffic deaths tied to the state’s oil boom.

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