Road safety promoted in western ND oil patch

Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Industry and state officials are teaming up to promote safer driving in western North Dakota's booming oil patch, where 100 people have died on roads in the past two years.

The region has 180 oil rigs and thousands of trucks cramming paved highways and dirt roads also used by the general public. The "Progress Zone" safety campaign being launched next month is aimed at cautioning drivers to slow down, buckle up and pass with care as congestion worsens, The Bismarck Tribune reported Wednesday.

"We're in a three- to five-year buildup and we need to acknowledge that there will be $1 billion in road construction, and pilot cars, and delays, and $3 billion to $4 billion in gas plants and pipelines coming on line in the next three to four years," said Ron Ness, director of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, a trade association that represents more than 250 energy companies.

Mike Mabin, director of the marketing company MABU, helped develop the "Progress Zone" concept.

"It's intended to emphasize the progressive nature of what's happening in North Dakota," he said.

The subtext message is "Moving Forward Safely," encouraging drivers to be more patient and use caution in the passing lane. Mabin said problems with passing "came up a lot" during discussions with focus groups of people from the oil patch.

The safety campaign, which will include billboards, posters, radio ads and information packets for oil workers, is an effort of the Petroleum Council and the state Transportation Department and Industrial Commission. It is being launched with a $25,000 grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The length and scope of the campaign will depend on how much money the other three entities contribute, Ness said.