KENEDY, Texas – The Karnes County Sheriff says the roads aren’t safe for drivers, and blames the Eagle Ford Shale.
“It’s just a scary place to be on the road right now,” Sheriff David Jalufka says.
Two years ago, his deputies issued 642 citations and warnings. Last year, that number skyrocketed to 2,600.
The Sheriff blames most of the nearly 500 accidents last year on reckless driving by oil workers.
Rising from the landscape are the oil derricks that are, in turn, making fortunes rise in Karnes County.
"Eagle Ford Shale was a blessing because we were a very poor county,” Sheriff Jalufka says. “Now, we've become very wealthy overnight."
The population soared, too, by 20,000.
But Sheriff Jalufka says we can’t dismiss a smaller number: seven. That’s the number of deadly accidents since January 1, in a place where even one a year was shocking.
"Two years ago you could ride a horse down Main Street and you wouldn't even have to stop at the stop sign,” Sheriff Jalufka says.
He points down the road to the spot where a 19-year-old driver was hit head-on by an eighteen wheeler. A little bit further down the highway is the cemetery where two retired schoolteachers died in another tragic accident.
"It makes me sad when I have to go to the funerals,” Sheriff Jalufka says. “It makes me angry because people don't care about human life."
He says many of his new drivers are behaving recklessly. Some examples: overloaded trucks, bald tires, no CDL, and even passing school buses dropping off children.
“I was informed time is money,” Sheriff Jalufka says. “That’s basically the way some of the oilfield people think.”
All the truck traffic puts the roads at a breaking point, crumbling concrete that just wasn’t built for this much weight.
“I built a weigh station to try to get some of these overloaded trucks in compliance,” Sheriff Jalufka says.
He asked for, and received, eight more deputies to patrol the roads. But with 750 square miles to cover, the two deputies working each shift are hopelessly outnumbered.
"We weren't ready for this,” Sheriff Jalufka says. “Nobody was ready for this."
He’s asking the public’s help in identifying the reckless drivers and put the brakes on the problem.
Sheriff Jalufka says the more information other drivers can provide, the better, including the time and place of the incident, the name of the company involved and a license plate number.
He says his office will then send a certified letter to the company to voice the safety concerns.
Complaints can be called in to Sheriff Jalufka at (830) 780-3931 or to Judge Barbara Najvar Shaw at (830) 780-3732.