Hydraulic fracturing or fracking is the process of injecting a mixture of liquid, sand, and chemicals into rocks deep below the Earth’s surface in order to release oil and natural gas. You may know that the chemicals used in fracking can contaminate groundwater and that fracking has been linked to earthquake activity, but did you know fracking can also cause car accidents?
On Saturday, March 1, 2013, a truck carrying drilling water ran a stop sign and overturned in Clarksburg, West Virginia. The truck landed on a family car belonging to Lucretia Mazzei. Her sons were in the back seat. Both boys died. The truck driver received tickets, but no criminal charges were filed. Ms. Mazzei survived, but she and her husband are still grieving the boys’ deaths.
Fracking truck accidents are one of many dangers in the fracking industry. An Associated Press analysis of traffic fatalities in six drilling states shows a steep increase in traffic accident deaths in areas of the country with fracking activity. In West Virginia’s most heavily drilled counties, fatal accidents increased by 42 percent in 2013. During this time period, traffic deaths in the rest of the state decreased by eight percent.
In Pennsylvania drilling counties, traffic fatalities rose 4 percent compared to a decrease of 19 percent in the rest of the state. In some drilling areas, traffic fatalities have more than quadrupled in the last decade. Counties that rarely had serious accidents are now using air transport to evacuate critically injured crash victims as often as four times a week.
Safer cars and highways mean that traffic deaths across the nation have been decreasing, so why are highway deaths increasing near fracking sites?
Fracking requires a high-pressure mixture of water, sand or gravel and chemicals. Drivers deliver these substances to wells on large trucks. It requires 2,300 to 4,000 truck trips per well to deliver the materials used in fracking. These trucks go to rural areas on roads that are not ready for the influx of traffic. When one of these heavy trucks hits a passenger vehicle, the results are catastrophic.
Regulatory loopholes also contribute to the problem
There are strict federal rules that govern how long a trucker can stay on the road, but these rules don’t apply to drivers in the oil and gas industry. It is not unusual for sleep deprived drivers to operate poorly maintained vehicles. And it isn’t just the public that is in danger; traffic accidents are the leading cause of fatalities in oil and gas workers.
Some states are working to improve safety in fracking areas by widening and improving roads and promoting safety. Oil and gas drillers and their suppliers have also adopted safety programs, but this has not eliminated the danger. According to Marvin Odum, the Americas Director of Royal Dutch Shell, fatal crashes are simply “one of the risks” of the fracking business. But, it is not a risk that the general public has agreed to take.
Frackcident victims have rights. However, determining liability for fracking truck accidents can be very complicated. Attorney Jon Ostroff and his team are dedicated to helping victims of the fracking industry to get the compensation they deserve. If you were injured in an accident involving a fracking truck, we want to hear more about your situation.