COVID-19 made many people across Wyoming question the safety of their everyday routines — from going to the grocery store to meeting up with friends. Many of those fears have dissipated in …
COVID-19 made many people across Wyoming question the safety of their everyday routines — from going to the grocery store to meeting up with friends. Many of those fears have dissipated in recent months, but there’s at least one routine that deserves your continued vigilance: driving.
Jumping in the car and heading to work, school or on a road trip might seem like second nature, but driving remains one of the riskier things we do on a regular basis. After all, we’re zipping around in multi-ton machines at high speeds, where only a slight mistake or unfavorable condition can lead to disaster.
Across the U.S., motor vehicle crashes remain one of the leading causes of death for anyone under the age of 55. Between 2009 and 2018, the CDC says that 937 travelers died across Wyoming — the equivalent of having the populations of Cowley and Deaver wiped out of existence.
The good news, however, is that there’s a lot we can do to reduce our risk. We all know that paying attention (including by not texting and driving) and never getting behind the wheel when impaired or exhausted are among the things we need to do. But the statistics show there’s another obvious safety precaution that too many Wyomingites are failing to take: putting on a seat belt.
The latest estimates show that only about 78.3% of Wyomingites are buckling up, well below the national average of 90%. Col. Kebin Haller, the head of the Wyoming Highway Patrol, recently called the figure “unacceptable.” In a joint PSA with Col. Matthew Packard of the Colorado Highway Patrol, Haller urged Wyomingites to wear their seat belts.
“Your safety and your lives, they matter to us,” Haller said.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re in the driver’s seat or a passenger,” Packard added, “we see the horrific consequences from people who don’t put that seat belt on every day.”
The statistics back up the anecdotal accounts. As of last week, 39 people had died on Wyoming roads in 2021 — and 60% of them were not buckled in.
“Wearing a seatbelt is a straightforward step motorists can do to increase their chances of surviving a motor vehicle crash,” said Sgt. Jeremy Beck of the highway patrol.
The State of Wyoming requires drivers and passengers to wear seat belts when driving on public roads and streets, but with it being a so-called secondary offense, officers, deputies and troopers can’t pull someone over solely for failing to buckle up. Maybe state lawmakers should consider changing the law, but in the meantime, we should all just make the right choice and wear a seat belt.
It is true that there are certain types of crashes in which a driver or passenger is better off without wearing one; it’s also true that some people beat the odds and win the lottery. But in the same way you wouldn’t bet your life savings on scratch tickets, you shouldn’t gamble with your life on poor odds. According to figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seat belts reduce your risk of death by 45% and similarly halve the risk of serious injury. If everyone had buckled up in 2017, the federal government estimated that more than 2,500 lives could have been saved across the country that year. The data suggests there are plenty of lives that could be saved in Wyoming, as the death rate on the state’s roads was nearly double the national average in 2018.
As Col. Haller put it, “We need you to buckle up.”