Research from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign suggests that hydraulic fracturing is linked to an increase in traffic-related accidents and fatalities in so-called fracking “boomtowns.”

In addition to the environmental concerns surrounding fracking, wherein a mixture of chemicals and water are forcibly injected into rock for the purpose of extracting oil and gas, researchers are also suggesting that traffic hazards have increased in fracking boomtowns.

This, according to researchers, is due to an uptick in traffic associated with fracking operations. Large trucks tasked with hauling vast amounts of wastewater from fracking operations reportedly increase traffic in and around fracking sites, generally in regions where the infrastructure is not equipped to handle the increased traffic burden. As such, the researchers believe there has been a corresponding increase in traffic accidents and fatalities in those regions.

To demonstrate, researchers examined the number of fatal traffic accidents that occurred in the Bakken Formation in North Dakota between 2006 and 2014 in relation to fracking activity in that region. According to the findings, researchers determined that there was an 8% increase in fatal crashes that occurred within six miles of fracking wells.

A possible solution recommended by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign team is to tax each well or to create tolls for transporting the wastewater. The study also recommends creating an alert or warning system to let local drivers know about an increase in fracking vehicle activity at those locations. Likewise, the researchers also recommend that the oil and gas industry improve overall safety by redistributing traffic loads to off-peak hours or to develop onsite wastewater disposal or treatment facilities in lieu of transporting the water.

The research appears in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management.

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