The new year is off to a tragic start on Wyoming’s roads.
During the first 11 days of 2019, seven people died in vehicle crashes in Wyoming. That terrible statistic includes a head-on wreck near Cheyenne on Friday evening that claimed the lives of three people.
The high number of fatal crashes so early in the new year is rather unusual. By comparison, there had been one highway fatality in Wyoming last year at this time. Mid-January of 2017 also saw one fatality, and two had been recorded in 2016. However, those numbers were down from the eight fatalities in January 2015, including the death of a Powell High School student on New Year’s Day.
While the factors and circumstances vary, each wreck is a somber reminder of how truly dangerous driving is.
As we hope for a safer 2019, it’s a good time to remember to drive carefully and pay attention every time you’re behind the wheel.
“Safe driving requires a combination of skills, dexterity, and focus,” WYDOT Director Bill Panos said in a recent news release. “Any activity that takes your attention away from the road should be avoided.”
While most drivers would be quick to agree with what Panos is saying, we are all guilty of being distracted while driving at times. It’s all too easy to look down to grab something, turn to talk with a passenger or, worse yet, pull out your phone.
Texting while driving is illegal across all of Wyoming and in Powell city limits, you can only use your cellphone in hands-free mode.
Texting while driving is especially dangerous because it combines three types of distracted driving: visual, manual and cognitive, said Wyoming Highway Patrol Col. Kebin Haller.
“When you’re texting, you are not watching the road. You’re also taking your hands off the steering wheel,” Haller said. “And, you’re also thinking about what you’re typing instead of driving.”
No text or phone call is worth your life or the lives of others on the highway. If you simply can’t wait to respond to a message or check something on your phone, pull over to a safe spot. It may only take a few seconds to look down at your phone, but in those seconds, your life could be forever changed — or even taken away.
With the inherent risks of driving, it’s especially important to teach teens how to drive safely and limit distractions. In an effort to reach more young people, Powell Valley Community Education is expanding its driver’s education courses this year — a move we’re thankful to see. As our community and state seek to provide kids with the best possible education, teaching them how to drive safely should be a top priority.
While not every accident can be prevented, many can — and common-sense things like wearing a seatbelt and never driving while intoxicated go a long way in staying safe on the highway.
After a rough start to 2019, let’s work to drive those numbers down throughout the rest of the year.