MY WYOMING


Why are the Cowboy State’s roads suddenly so dangerous?

Two old friends were killed recently

outside Jackson when a van full of tourists

crossed the center line and hit them

head-on. Carol Roemer, 68, Riverton, and

Dorothy “Dot” Ashby, 78, Lander, were

two of the nicest gals in Fremont County.

On this day, they were in the wrong place

at the wrong time.

There was no explanation for why the

out-of-state tourist driving the minivan

would have swerved into the oncoming

lane. He was also killed with four of his

passengers airlifted to area hospitals.

This deadly crash took the state’s traffic

death toll to 92 for the year, compared

to just 57 at this same time a year ago.

Why have traffic deaths almost doubled

this year?

Steve Peck in his Riverton Ranger editorial

July 24 thinks he has the answer.

“It’s hard to believe traffic safety is not

being affected by the new visual stimuli

competing with the road outside the car

for the driver’s attention inside the car,”

he writes.

The crash we described earlier here

occurred in the shadow of the Grand

Teton Mountain Range, literally one of

the most beautiful views in the entire

United States. Yet, for some reason, a

driver veered into the oncoming lane with

deadly consequences.

Peck writes that it is not just cell

phones that are causing the distraction.

He cited a TV ad for a new car touting the

13-inch display on the car’s dashboard

that provides the driver with all kinds of

information. Hmmm. Perhaps the driver

needs to be looking at the highway ahead

rather than studying a monitor on the

dashboard?

Two of the oldest reasons for people

dying in car wrecks have not diminished

much. Way too many people died because

they were not wearing seat belts.

This is an easy fix – if people would just

wise up. Slight injuries turn into fatalities

when the seat belts are not used.

The second big cause is impaired

driving from alcohol, marijuana or other

drugs. A lot of good work in public education

and law enforcement has helped

but it still is a problem.

There are many reasons why Wyoming

roads should be safer than they are.

We have the lowest population of any

state (7 people per square mile), we have

very good roads and most Wyomingites

are veterans of all kinds of driving conditions.

We also drive more miles per capita

than any other state.

It seemed like for years our traffic

death toll had been going down, but not

this year.

Could it be speed? I loved it when

the legislature made the Department of

Transportation increase speed limits from

65 to 70 on most roads and put in an 80

mph limit in many places on our interstate

highways. Perhaps some of these accidents

were caused by that, but I have not

seen any conclusive evidence.

WYDOT has spent a lot of money on

variable speed limit signs which slow

traffic down below the posted limits

under certain conditions, such as weather.

One of my coffee buddies claims that

out-of-state drivers pass more often and

more recklessly than Wyoming drivers.

The increase in passing lanes should have

dealt with that, you might think.

Perhaps it is caused by all those lumbering

RVs and motorhomes (like me?)

that clog the highways nine months out

of the year and slow the traffic down. Not

sure.

WYDOT has also spent a lot of money

on message boards which tell us to watch

out for wildlife, motorcyclists and bicyclists

on the roads and other dangers.

It also seems to me that we have seen

a surge in deaths in motorcycle crashes.

More people are riding these days than

ever.

One of the more recent fatal car crashes

in Wyoming occurred July 28 and carried

an old theme. At 4:44 a.m. a 2013 Ford

Explorer left Highway 191 and rolled.

Killed was 23-year-old driver Ashley

Skorcz of Rock Springs. She was not

wearing her seat belt. Her 5-year-old

daughter Emma was in the car but was

also not protected and was life-flighted to

Utah for serious injuries.

Miss Skorcz was the manager of a

Rock Springs convenience store and grew

up in Farson. A fund has been started in

Rock Springs for her daughter.

The fatality brought the state total to

94 deaths on highways in 2019. With

the year barely half done, we are close

to exceeding the highest annual total in

the past 25 years when 102 people died

in 1999.

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