TxDOT launches Be Safe. Drive Smart campaign

The oil and gas industry boom in the eastern Panhandle is bringing hundreds of jobs to the area, but itâ??s also bringing an urban-like traffic congestion.ã??

Roberts County Judge Vernon Cook says itâ??s the equivalent of turning a Farm to Market Road into I-40 overnight. Hundreds of heavy trucks are occupying rural roads. TX Dot says in the Granite Wash Area, encompassing Wheeler, Hemphill, Roberts and parts of Hutchinson Counties, there were 186 fatal and serious injury crashes and 36 traffic fatalities last year. Thatâ??s an increase of 13 percent over 2011.ã??

Carol Rawson, the TxDOT Traffic Operations Division Director says, "Many of these roads weâ??ve seen in some cases, maybe only had 200 vehicles on them in a day. And the volumeâ??s increasing to over 2400 vehicles in a day.ã?? At that particular point youâ??re not driving on a sleepy country road anymore. Youâ??re actually driving where youâ??ve got to pay attention."ã??

TxDOT urges drivers to drive a safe speed that considers road conditions and congestion and to stop for all stop signs and red lights. They also warn motorists to pass carefully.