Death on the road

  As your “Disposable workers of the oil and gas fields” story says, no death should be overlooked or treated as unimportant.

However, in comparison to the 89 deaths that occurred in the drilling industry from 2000 to 2006 in the states of Colorado, Utah, Montana, New Mexico, Wyoming, and North Dakota, there were approximately 10,600 deaths as a result of traffic accidents — more than 100 times the rate for drilling-related fatalities!

We continue to slaughter anywhere from 25,000 to more than 40,000 people annually on our highways nationwide, and my feeling is that everyone (except the survivors) pretty much yawns when this astounding number is reported. This is a strange paradox, in view of the frenzy we get in when very low numbers of deaths occur from something statistically irrelevant but bizarre or unusual. I note here the bird flu, hantavirus and West Nile fever, none of which have killed very many people in the U.S. at all, but all of which have received, and continue to receive, large amounts of commentary and analysis in the media.

You may say that traffic fatalities are so widely dispersed and have so many causes under a variety of conditions that preventative action is extremely difficult, while in the case of drilling fatalities, something more direct can have an immediate impact. I would agree with that, but I would still assert that we have come to live with the enormous cost of traffic deaths without getting appropriately angry and responsive.

Michael Sharpe
Grand Junction, Colorado