Fracking’s unexpected side-effect: Traffic deaths on the rise

AFP Photo / Gabriel BouysRT News

Fracking requires twice or three times as many truck trips per well as older oil and gas extraction techniques. That could be reason for drilling areas in US witnessing a significant spike in traffic fatalities, new analysis suggests.

The Associated Press has studied traffic death figures and US census data in six drilling states, and discovered that increased traffic fatalities is one side-effect of fracking, a controversial drilling technique, which means water, chemicals and sand are injected deep underground to break up rocks to free oil and natural gas there.   

The report goes state by state, comparing fatal road accidents figures for the last several years in drilling counties to those in drilling-free parts of the states.

In West Virginia, for example, the most heavily drilled counties witnessed a rise of 42 percent in deadly crashes in 2013, while the rest of the state saw an 8 percent decline in traffic deaths.

Traffic deaths per 100,000 people are down by 20 percent in Texas, but not in the 21 drilling counties – where they have increased by 18 percent.

We are just so swamped,” said Sheriff Dwayne Villanueva of Karnes County, Texas, where there’s been a surge in serious accidents. “I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon.”

The oil and gas industry acknowledges the problem. Deadly crashes are “recognized as one of the key risk areas of the business,” according to Marvin Odum, who runs Royal Dutch Shell’s exploration operations in the Americas.

It requires 2,300 to 4,000 truck trips per well to deliver mixtures of water, sand and chemicals to a drilling site. That’s two or three times more than truck trips required for older techniques of oil and gas extraction.

Another factor contributing to more traffic deaths is that drilling activity develops faster than the road infrastructure. So increased truck flow moves along the roads that were meant for a much smaller number of cars.

Some also blame the situation on less stringent federal rules that apply to drivers of long trucks engaged in the oil and gas industry.

The analysis by AP adds up to a list of dangers associated with fracking. Environmentalists have long argued the practice leads to water pollution and may cause earthquakes.

2 thoughts on “Fracking’s unexpected side-effect: Traffic deaths on the rise

  1. Deadly crashes are “recognized as one of the key risk areas of the business,”

    What a crock… this article was written to divert attention from the fact that fracking is slowly killing everyone who lives near these sites by poisoning the groundwater. The common belief is that the newspaper will report the worst of any situation, so them reporting that car accidents are “one of the key risk areas” of the business allows people to ignore the entire business altogether, and they probably won’t think about it again until their tap water catches fire.

    and just to appear as if they’re telling both sides of the story, we have the very last sentence telling us:

    “Environmentalists have long argued the practice leads to water pollution and may cause earthquakes.”

    Only mentioned to remind us that it’s just those crazy environmentalists again, who complain about everything, anyway.

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