Weather, poor driving behind spike in fatal accidents

This is a picture of an accident due to black ice conditions the Bridger Valley Fire and EMS responded to of a one-vehicle rollover on I-80 earlier this winter, attesting to winter conditions causing accidents. COURTESY FILE PHOTO/UC Fire and Ambulance

CASPER —More people are dying on Wyoming’s roadways so far this year compared to the last four, which is likely the result of extreme weather and bad driving habits, officials said.

There have been 20 deaths on Wyoming’s roadways in 2023. In comparison, there were six in 2022, 14 in 2021, 6 in 2020 and 17 in 2019.

A majority of the crashes this year have been multi-vehicle, which sometimes caused multiple deaths at once, said Jeremy Beck, Wyoming Highway Patrol public relations specialist.

Some of those involved were out-of-state drivers or people who recently moved to Wyoming and “don’t understand our fast-changing” road conditions, he added.

For example, one person died and multiple people were injured in a 44-vehicle pileup along Interstate 80 in southern Wyoming at the end of January, he said. The wreck involved truck drivers and others who were likely passing through the state.

“It really stretches our resources, especially when we see a crash like the one with 44 vehicles,” Beck said. “With us (WHP) being understaffed, it does make things harder.”

This winter has also been particularly extreme, with parts of Wyoming being continuously slammed by snowstorms. This creates difficult driving conditions.

“They probably just don’t realize that one section of the road can be totally clear, and the next part can be icy and slick,” he said.

Many times, the drivers’ bad habits are to blame for crashes.

In fewer than three weeks, the highway patrol responded to over 1,000 drivers in stranded vehicles, Beck said.

U.S. Highway 213 was forced to close last week due to weather so extreme even emergency vehicles were getting trapped.

“And people were still going on the road and ignoring the closure,” he said.

There are also fatal crashes that can be avoided, such as the wreck that killed five young people east of Rawlins on Jan. 22, said Beck.

The driver was likely intoxicated and driving the wrong way down Interstate 80.

“Do your part. Don’t drive distracted. Don’t drive intoxicated. Don’t drive on closed roads. Don’t drive too fast,” he said.

Beck also urged the public to use for information about road conditions.

Recently, many people have been contacting dispatch, which is already dealing with staffing issues and a higher volume of calls related to these incidents.

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