Danger – Black Swans Loose on Texas Roads!

Emergency personnel attend to a man injured when a tractor he was driving overturned west of Kenedy, Texas in July 2013. Between 2009 and 2011 in Karnes, La Salle and Dimmit counties, crashes involving a commercial vehicle increased 470 percent. (San Antonio Express-News)

Oil and gas industry driving accidents are a hot button issue right now.  Increased industry activity has brought an increase in traffic incidents, especially in areas that have not seen that level of activity before.   However, recent statistics from Texas point to a strange twist to the accident numbers.

According to  the Fuelfix website, 2013 saw a drop in driving fatalities in the Eagle Ford area of Texas, where there has been such an increase in drilling activity.  In 2012, the 23 counties that make up the Eagle For experienced driving 248 fatalities and in 2013 there were 236.   That’s good news.

But the Texas Department of Transportation says if you add up the number of crashes resulting in serious injuries or fatalities, the number jumped by 26 percent between 2012 and 2013, up to a total of 3,430.

That is the danger of just looking at one metric of safety; if you just looked at fatalities, you would have missed the real trend.   Statisticians warn that random events behave in random ways.  An event can happen once and never repeat itself, or it can happen in strings.  They call those random events “black swans.”

So you could say that Texas has experienced a black swan event.  Fatalities dropped, but serious accidents skyrocketed.   We frequently see a similar disconnect in OSHA recordables, companies with the highest recordables may never have a fatality and every once in a while a company’s only recordable is a fatality.   Unfortunately, the difference between life and death in a serious crash can come down to chance – to a slight alteration of speed, location or driver attention.

Texas is stepping up its efforts to reduce accidents and fatalities.   TxDOT has launched a campaign called “Be Safe. Drive Smart,” which includes a series of  safety messages on TV, radio, billboards, and gas pumps.   The state says it hopes to partner with oil and gas companies to get the word out.



One Reply to “Danger – Black Swans Loose on Texas Roads!”

  1. Almost any set of data can have selective items highlighted &/or ignored to result in an appearance desired for personal, business or political reasons to advance agendas. A careless operation might have Zero accidents but innumerable Close Calls last year, only the full set of facts would indicate whether they are Safe or a severe Accident waiting to happen.

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