Local road death statistics show trends of two-lane highways, distracted driving

By Shelby Kruse The Sheridan Press Via Wyoming News Exchange
Posted 12/8/22

According to statistics provided by the Wyoming Department of Transportation, road deaths in Sheridan County are down significantly this year with five reported in 2020, two reported in 2021 and one …

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Local road death statistics show trends of two-lane highways, distracted driving

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According to statistics provided by the Wyoming Department of Transportation, road deaths in Sheridan County are down significantly this year with five reported in 2020, two reported in 2021 and one reported so far in 2022. 

However, an interesting trend can be found among those numbers.

Michelle Edwards, District 4 traffic engineer at WYDOT, said seven of the eight fatal crashes since 2020 occurred on two-lane highways.

“The one in 2022 that we’ve had thus far was on a two-lane highway, one in 2021 was on a two-lane highway and in 2020 all five of those were on a two-lane highway,” Edwards said, adding two-way highways are less forgiving in the event of an accident due to having a smaller shoulder and therefore less space to move or correct if needed.

“Crashes, especially fatal crashes, really are pretty random. If we find a spot where they’re having a high crash rate in a specific location, we’ll look into it, but fatal crashes are typically pretty random,” Edwards said. “We definitely see that driver behavior leads to a high percentage of fatal crashes.”

Fatal crashes due to driver behavior can be caused by a number of different scenarios, Edwards said, noting cellphone use and not wearing seat belts as examples.

“For a lot of us driving comes second nature, and you really do have to be paying attention whether you’re in town or on a high speed roadway,” Edwards said. “The odds of surviving a crash when you’re wearing your seat belt are significantly higher.”

The importance of wearing a seat belt was seconded by Wyoming Highway Patrol Sgt.Jeremy Beck.

“So far this year we’ve experienced 122 fatality crashes [statewide],” Beck said. “Out of the 122 fatality crashes, only 28% of those folks were wearing a seat belt.”

Beck said the most common type of fatal crash in Wyoming this year was rollover crashes, many of which could also be attributed to distracted driving.

“We’ve had 50 fatal crashes that were rollover crashes,” Beck said. “It can be distracted driving where you’re looking down at your cellphone and you look back up and you’re off the road.”

Beck noted in accidents such as this, drivers often overcorrect to get back on the road, which can lead to the vehicle rolling over, increasing the severity of the accident.

He added driving should only be done sober, not just from alcohol or drugs but also from prescription medications that could possibly impair a driver.

“This time of year we’re experiencing roadways that are changing rapidly because of ice and snow… slow down and give yourself space so that you have more time to react,” Beck said. “Drive at an appropriate speed and buckle up. We don’t want this holiday season to turn tragic for anyone.”

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