Why US-285 is Known as the “Death Highway”?

August 1, 2022

Highway 285 runs through Pecos, Texas, and Carlsbad, New Mexico.  It is a small rural highway that is usually humming with oil field trucks and workers when oil prices are high.  On the Texas side of the Permian Basin, Highway 285 is one of the main roads used to carry supplies to and from the oilfields in West Texas.  Highway 285 is no normal road.  The frequency and severity of wrecks on Highway 285 has earned the stretch of road the nickname “Death Highway.”

In 2018, the Dallas Morning News stated that fatalities on Death Highway picked up as oil prices rose, noting that 93 people died in accidents on Death Highway in 2017.  That was when the price of oil was about $50 a barrel.  This year, we have seen the price of oil skyrocket to more than $120 a barrel.

What makes Highway 285 so dangerous?

Highway 285 is fairly close to the oil-rich Permian Basin.  Given the ongoing oil and gas boom, more people are working in the oil patch, more drilling rigs are coming online, and companies need to send supplies out to the oilfield workers.  Naturally, they use Highway 285 to transport equipment and supplies to the oil patch.  As a result, massive numbers of large commercial trucks are sharing the road with passenger vehicles on Death Highway.

What are the leading causes of 18-wheeler accidents in the Permian Basin?

In 2018, the Midland Reporter-Telegram (“MRT”) reported Death Highway is where oil prices and truck fatalities intersect.  The MRT report notes the following:

  • Drivers are so in demand in the basin that one can easily rake in $120,000 a year
  • Some drivers are speeding, some of them are too tired to be driving, but they’re making money
  • Some drivers are just making as much money as they can
  • Some drivers work so much they get really tired to the point they cannot think straight
  • Drivers can be brain-dead because they’re living off four to six hours of sleep
  • 18-wheelers used to carry oilfield supplies aren’t always properly maintained

Unsurprisingly, driver inattention and failures to maintain 18-wheelers are primary factors in crashes along Death Highway.  That said, there are more.  Despite laws that apply to all motorists and federal regulations targeting commercial drivers, many truck operators still text, talk, or engage in other cell phone use. Plus, there are other forms of distracted driving that can be equally dangerous, like using a radio, interacting with a GPS, or eating.

How can you protect yourself?

Ralph McIngvale, a partner at Permian Lodging, which builds and runs man camps in the region, was quoted saying, “You’ve got to be very defensive. You’ve got to look as much in your rear-view window as your front windshield.”  Essentially, look out for tired, overworked, distracted truck drivers that are working in the oil field.

There is a problem with that advice.  Truckers have a difficult job hauling goods all over the country.  But they are supposed to be specially trained to drive their 40-ton 18-wheelers.  18-wheelers are rife with hazards.  Truckers that ignore their safety training, whether by: (a) driving longer than they are allowed, (b) without proper rest, or (c) driving 18-wheelers that are not maintained properly, just to make as much money as possible, is not reasonable.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured during a truck or 18-wheeler accident, Morrow & Sheppard LLP is here to hold.  We know what it takes to hold trucking companies responsible.  To make sure you have the best chance to secure compensation for everything you lost and all the pain you go through, contact us online for a free, confidential consultation today or call us at (800) 489-2216.

Get a Free Case Review by Calling Morrow & Sheppard Now.

We’re available 24/7.

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