Wyoming’s Oilfield Commutes can be Deadly

Have you ever fallen asleep while driving? Unfortunately, one Wyoming man did and crossed the center line hitting one car and killing two. When officers arrived on scene, they found empty energy drink cans in his truck. He told authorities he had not slept after a 13-hour shift. He worked in Utah on an oil rig and was commuting home to Wyoming after a grueling shift. He is not the only person who commutes home after two weeks of pulling oil out of the ground.

A criminal case corresponding to this fatal crash brought the case to public attention. However, similar wrecks won’t necessarily become public. Crashes linked to fatigued driving have become a problem and most are due to: long-distance commutes to job sites, prolonged shifts, and tedious tasks associated with oil and gas jobs. All of these can result in drowsy driving according to the Centers of Disease Control. When workers clock out before driving home in their personal trucks, they fall through gaps in data collection. Although officials know that vehicle wrecks are the leading cause of on the job death for Wyoming oil and gas workers, but data analysts stop grouping or identifying workers by industry at the end of their shift.

When the Wyoming man swerved into oncoming traffic on his way home from the oilfield, two people died. A South Korean family had rented a Ford Explorer for a sightseeing trip through the western United States. It was a husband, wife, and 3-year-old son. The wife died instantly, with the son dying a few minutes later. The husband was injured but survived. Eight months after the wreck, prosecutors charged the gentleman with two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and another count of aggravated assault. They stated that he acted recklessly by failing to get enough sleep before the drive. Once the case went to trial, the jurors acquitted the man of the three felonies he faced. However, they did find him guilty of two counts of vehicular homicide, a misdemeanor that is punishable by up to a year of incarceration on each count.

This has rose concern amongst the oil and gas industry. When a shift ends, many workers are eager to return home to their families, even if the commute home is several hours long. Many are urged to get a hotel room for the night, but very few do before the drive home. This can have fatal consequences if a driver falls asleep at the wheel.