ODESSA, Texas — Since Sunday, there have been nine fatal car crashes across the Permian Basin. 

Ector, Midland and Upton counties saw two each. Andrews, Glasscock and Presidio also had deadly crashes this week.

We've all heard the saying, "I only looked away for a second," but when it comes to driving, those few seconds could be a matter of life or death. 

“I think a lot of our problem right now is impatience," said Gene Powell with TxDOT. "We take chances behind the wheel that we should never take." 

Whether it’s changing the radio, making a phone call, or putting on that last touch of makeup, we’re putting our lives and others at risk.

“The first six months of this year in my 12 counties, we had 74 fatalities. We had 23 in July alone, and we’ve already had at least 16 in August and there’s still a week to go. So for whatever reason, this summer has been very rough," said Powell.

But Powell says the roads aren’t particularly at fault here.

“Everybody always talks about how it’s the roads fault. But interstate 20 has as many fatal crashes as anything. And it has a four-lane divided road with a median barrier down the middle. Driver behavior is so key," said Powell.

It’s a topic, Powell is passionate about due to his own experience of losing his mother on the road.

“My mom had a wreck, it was on a Sunday afternoon. She passed away a few days later on a Thursday. It’s been a little over ten years now. Part of the reason why I do what I do, is so hopefully I can convince families to drive properly. And to warn people about work zones to where other families don’t have to go through what my family went through," said Powell.

When looking at the handful of factors that can lead to a fatal crash like distracted driving, seat belts, speeding, road rage and drunk driving; they are things that all involve driver responsibility.

“Regardless of the reason, it hurts just as much. And when you look at fatalities and see drinking and driving and you see high speeds and you see all these things that are so preventable. It’s really sobering.”

Powell says for the 12 counties Odessa TxDOT covers, right now more than 500 million dollars are under contract for road projects and the next year will bring about the same. But ultimately, it’s up to us behind the wheel.

“Our mission at TX DOT is zero. Texas transportation commission has adopted zero fatalities by the year 2050, and the only way we get there is with the public’s help," said Powell.