This Tuesday, I bought one of the few copies of the New York Times which can be found in this area, and brought it home for later perusal. Because Tuesday contains the weekly Science Times, our toxicology professor at UNDMJ had recommended (years ago) that we read it to keep abreast of the action which was occurring outside our realm of research. (Graduate students tend to be myopic!) While a student, I rarely had time for this endeavor, but as a working-at- home mother of two busy boys, I make the time to stay somewhat connected in the world of science, and reading the Tuesday Times on those days when I am at the grocery store early enough to grab a copy is one of those strategies.
Later that night I was surprised to see, before I even got to the Science page, was a front page article titled, Deadliest Danger Isn’t at the Rig but on the Road. It voiced concern about exhaustion faced by natural gas drilling workers, and according to author Ian Urbina, more than 300 oil and gas workers were killed in highway crashes over the past decade, the largest cause of fatalities in the industry. Mr. Urbina continued that the cause is “In part to the exemptions which allow the oil field truckers to work longer hours than drivers in most other industries”. The National Transportation and Safety Board strongly opposes these exemptions which were implemented in the 1990s.
As I watch hundreds of tank trucks pass on the now busy road on my formerly serene farm, I wonder who else besides the unfortunate workers are being or will be affected by this lax law. Certainly their devastated families are impacted beyond repair. How about the rest of the community, such as the people who have to extricate those dead bodies?
Recently, I became involved in my son’s cubscout pack. The other committee members are almost all firefighters or policemen, and sometimes I feel guilty about how much they are giving to this committee on top of the scout work, and how much I don’t when I race off to my farm to plant the kohlrabi and trim the hedge-by hand, I proudly add. Last week, sirens screamed past me as I worked in the Wellsboro garden on a sunny afternoon; it is now a common occurrence- likely off to some gas industry accident, I guessed. However, today, I think of those families who give to their community as firefighters and EMT volunteers. They are wrestled away from their families, soccer games and/or sleep. They aren’t being paid overtime rates for this generosity. How long will those volunteers be willing to tolerate this burden? Who will balk? I certainly would!
I wonder what I should do to assure myself that no sleepy driver will crash into my car as I go down the road. I wonder if Wellsboro will be tolerable as a summer home with all of the road noise. I wonder if I should do more than read the Tuesday Times.